Headlines: April 3rd, 2008

England’s streets will become more civilised places only when the needs of pedestrians are given priority over car users, according to the Government’s advisors on urban design. A report today from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment says most streets are badly designed.

In ‘Civilised streets’ CABE claims that in too many places the car is still dominant and it goes on to set out what it sees as the opportunities, challenges and benefits of radical new thinking in street design. The authors believe streets that are designed to give more freedom of movement to all users would be slower, safer and more social places.

Sarah Gaventa, director of CABE Space, said, “Most streets in this country are failing pedestrians. They need to become destinations again, and not simply ways of getting traffic from A to B. ‘Civilised streets’ opens the debate on how to design great streets that work for everyone.”

The report paints a picture of streets that are places where people of all ages shop, walk, cycle, play and talk more easily. It examines the controversial concept of shared space, whose advocates support the removal of signs and guard rails so that drivers and pedestrians are forced to be more alert to one another and which, they claim, leads to more responsible driving. CABE believes shared spaces is one way of rescuing the country’s streets from the car and it says councils, planners and highway engineers have to understand and consider the idea as a way of creating more civilised streets.

‘Civilised Streets’ is the latest in a series of CABE Space publications on the benefits of improved street design of streets. It looks at ways to reconcile the competing needs of different street users and was developed in consultation with the Commission’s Inclusive Environment Group. The report is available to download for free from www.cabe.org.uk