Headlines: March 30th, 2007



New guidelines on street design have been published and should make residential roads safer in future with slower traffic, and less clutter. The new ‘ Manual for Streets’ marks a reversal in the thinking behind ‘Design Bulletin 32’, which was first published in 1977, and now CABE, the Government’s advisory body on architecture, urban design and public space, expects to see a transformation in the quality of new and existing streets.

It has been working with the departments for Transport and Communities and Local Government to produce the guidance and hope it will see the creation of streets that are social places rather than just traffic spaces. CABE believes the old Design Bulletin led to the dominance of the car at the expense of all other street users and says for the first time the new manual will ensure pedestrians are seen as the most important users of residential streets.

Under the new guidance highway engineers will be expected to focus on the whole environment of a street rather than on only what goes on in the five metres between the kerbs. Important changes will include slower traffic, local distinctiveness, less clutter and fewer alleyways. The expectation is that speed will be controlled by the design of a whole area and not just signs, with a ‘design speed’ of 20 miles an hour in all streets with light traffic. The manual urges the use of local materials in streets and street furniture, reflecting local history and with local people being involved in the design process. It says well-designed streets encourage informal meetings between neighbours and explains that people prefer to walk and cycle in places where they feel visible and safe.

Louise Duggan, Streets advisor at CABE, said the subject was beginning to get the attention it deserved and was moving away from an obsession with risk, which paradoxically, she said, led to riskier behaviour: The principles in the new manual do not apply to other urban streets, such as high streets, secondary retail streets, and those connecting residential areas, but CABE is hoping to work with the Department for Transport in developing guidance for those areas.