Naked Streets

This article was published in 2011, in Newsletter 99.

As part of the CB1 developments around the station some funds are available to ameliorate the effects of extra traffic, be it cars, bikes or people on foot, through the streets between Mill Road, the station and developments in that area.

As a first step a public meeting was held in the area to give local residents some ideas about changing thinking in street design. This took the form of a presentation by Ben Hamilton-Baillie followed by a question and answer session with input from County officers and local Councillors.

Ben Hamilton-Baillie is one of the pioneers in creating ‘Shared Streets’ together with the concept of ‘Naked Streets’. Note these are not ‘roads’ as conduits for cars but places for people. Exhibition Road and Kensington High Street in London are two of the better known examples of this type of change.

The concept, when applied to residential streets, changes the nature of the area, with less definition between areas used by cars and other uses. Changes in surface, reduced use of kerbs, and informal arrangements of street furniture, trees etc. can also help. This leads to ‘shared space’ where cars tend to travel at reduced speeds, and vulnerable road users are less intimidated. Far less regulation is required.

I compare this with ‘shared paths’ where segregation leads to ‘ownership’ of the space, with cycles going faster, and pedestrians strongly resenting any intrusion by cycles. Non-segregated paths enable groups to walk together or those on bikes to ride two or more abreast, but clearly needing to respect the needs of others.

The desperate lack of secure cycle parking at the station means that some inconsiderate cyclists have even locked bikes to the wheelchair ramp – something we do not condone.
Image as described adjacent

Ben showed examples from both the UK and Europe, including a video clip of Seven Dials near Covent Garden where the lack of footways, street furniture etc., means that pedestrians and motor vehicles mix without difficulty and it even seems to make taxi drivers civilised.

The question and answer session resulted in some division of opinion, with a group insisting that making the roads one-way would improve things, and a claim that Tenison Road was only ten feet wide (I think that assumes parked cars are not part of the road). Others understood that changes in the nature of the environment could result in changes in behaviour. There was universal understanding that rat-running traffic was a serious issue, with taxis coming in for much criticism both for speed and driving style.

It was good to see a packed hall with local people entering into discussions on such issues.

A steering group of officers, councillors, as well as representatives of residents associations, taxi drivers and from the cycling campaign will attempt to move things forward in the coming months.

You can find out more about these ideas

Jim Chisholm