Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 2



  The public realm is primarily for people walking (judged by the number of users). Pedestrian flows are rarely measured. Yet so great are the flows that some of our public spaces suffer from chronic pedestrian congestion. These include Oxford Street where people spill out into the carriageway and around underground stations. Stations such as Victoria have to restrict access to pedestrians for short periods to ease congestion.

    "In situations where the degree of crowding can be determined freely, the upper limit for an acceptable density in streets and on sidewalks with two-way pedestrian traffic appears to be around 10-15 pedestrians per minute per metre street width. This corresponds to a pedestrian flow of some 100 people per minute in a ten metre wide pedestrian street."—(Jan Gehl in "Life between Buildings")

    "Narrow buildings have the fine effect of making streets more interesting because narrow units mean many doors and many different functions to look at even on a short walk through town. Narrow buildings which have a predominantly vertical facade structure have the important visual effect of making distances feel shorter. This makes it more pleasant and comfortable to walk around the city."

    "Activities inside buildings and those on the street can enrich each other. In the evenings, friendly light shines out of the windows of shops and other group floor activities, contributing to a feeling of security as well as to genuine safety."

  Features of most unattractive ground floor facades to walkers are:

    —  Large units with few or no doors.

    —  No visible variation in function.

    —  Closed or passive facades.

    —  Monotonous facades.

    —  Lack of detail, nothing interesting to look at.

    "Walking is cheap, low-noise, environmentally friendly form of transportation, which allows streets to hold larger volumes of (pedestrian) traffic. Walking means exercise, fresh air, and the chance to promenade. Walking can be fun. Walking allows time to look around at the surroundings, to window-shop, and see events. Walking also lets people stop, change direction, and experience things."—(Jan Gehl in "Public Spaces Public Life")

  The Government's latest guidance on design and the planning system is By Design; other relevant publications are Places Streets and Movement—A supplement to Design Bulletin 32. Work on Urban Villages is also relevant: these are conceived as walkable communities based typically on a ten minute walking time. Briefing sheets on these publications are enclosed.

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Prepared 29 June 2001