Where the rubber meets road, a new way to prioritise usage will guide the development of streets and communities
The book is changing on street design, and we’re helping re-write the story. Local authorities often have dedicated highway design guides for developers to use when designing streets. But the idea of what a street should be is changing, and in response, Suffolk County Council asked us to help redesign their guide, originally drafted in 1993.
Not surprisingly, the previous focus was almost exclusively on car traffic. Now, streets are expected to deliver social value and more equitably serve a variety of users. We began by evaluating how communities use their streets, who the users are, and what they might need in future. It became clear that given streets had differing primary users and needs. So, we developed a new methodology to identify a user’s first approach to ensure streets prioritise those who use them.
To develop the methodology, we created new elements to characterise the uses of a street. Separating out these elements (i.e. footpath, cycle track, carriageway) and applying each where we determine there to be a need to accommodate or encourage that user, allows us to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists; making journeys by these modes more direct and enjoyable than journeys by car. This results in a user-led focus on design and enables local authorities to set developers’ objectives in delivering streets that fit the needs of the community. This approach requires designers to understand the hierarchy of users and develop infrastructure to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, while permitting private vehicles to access where required. Over time, communities will see a more organic evolution of streetscapes and new opportunities emerge.
Read the Suffolk Street Design Guide here.
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