Our streets define where we can and can’t go. And Hema, our Walking Cities project coordinator in Birmingham, wonders if our urban environment could with fewer barriers and more gateways.
Every day I encounter the richness and diversity of people that make up our communities. This eclectic society is evident in how we live, the clothes we wear and even in the food we eat.
I just think it could be better reflected in our towns and city spaces.
Why is it that many streets overlook inclusivity?
A time of modal shift
There are great examples of transformed environments, such as New Road in Brighton, which embrace health and wellbeing, encouraging a societal and cultural experience.
Adapting our streets so we can build an inclusive community, where it’s about play, social cohesion and culture while connecting us to transport links - all of this would go a long way in elevating the difficulties faced by many of our neighbours.
Having the ability to walk or move around safely and (to a degree) freely is not without its challenges. However we’re living in an era where there’s a concerted move towards modal shift.
Town planners and designers are changing, creating public realms which are becoming more conducive to walking, but there’s still a long way to go.
To help us in our daily lives, there are simple low-cost short-term solutions that would improve access and reduce obstacles. For example, dropped kerbs to enable pedestrians to negotiate the street environment, reducing street clutter thus opening up spaces and lowering pole-mounted bins so they are reachable in turn reducing litter.
Good design, sustainable benefits
Creating well-designed areas can be the start of long-term benefits.
Take the pedestrianisation of Birmingham’s Victoria Square back in 1992. It took vision to change what was a busy vehicle thoroughfare, but fast forwarding 20-something years and the space is a now hot spot for the city, including the German Market which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors (and their money) every year.
But not all transformations need to be in big cities. Take West Bromwich Town Square in Sandwell where improvements now enhance the shopping experience giving pedestrians priority over vehicles.
With an ageing population, a baby boom, mobility and multicultural societies, adapting our streets need to accommodate diverse requirements so they are inclusive for all so central to future design and the walking agenda.
Balancing the space allocation and reducing segregation will enable our cities to become pedestrian friendly and better places to walk and live.
Are you interested in a career with Living Streets? Please click here!