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Friday, 28 December 2012

Walking and Planning

The Guardian has piece on walking today.  This is a much neglected area of urban planning. One of the key intentions of the Harlesden Town Centre development is to make the Centre friendlier to pedestrians.

It's animating principle is the "road user hierarchy" which tries to arbitrate between the many groups that use a universal service like a street.  The hierarchy puts pedestrians first and motorists at the bottom.  This is obviously quite a stark choice, but then decisions about a finite universal resource frequently are.

The consequences of ignoring pedestrians in street design can be seen in places like South Kilburn, where the big tower blocks put up in the 1960s completely fail to create a sense of place.  An artist told me that she reacted very well to them as sculptural forms, which is no doubt what the designers intended, but they simply do not work as places to live.  Because, the streets are inherently unwelcoming, people simply use them for transit from A to B.  This means that they effectively disintegrate the community, which has no natural points of interaction_ feeding into all kinds of social degeneration.

A separate issue is the relationship between motor traffic and pedestrians. Currently, many of our urban areas are designed around cars, and the intention of developments like Harlesden is to shift the emphasis back towards people.  Sometimes indeed, measures like guardrails that are intended to safeguard people, actually endanger them.  The worst example I know of are the rails on Station Approach by Willesden Junction station, which force people to walk into the road.  Hopefully, these will be gone by June.

We have a policy now to try to ensure these kind of quality of life issues are taken into account, but it becomes more and more difficult as the resources available to the Council diminish.


Anonymous said...

There's a comment on the Guardian site:

catslovelivemice: 27 December 2012 9:04 PM

"I like walking around my local neighbourhood, it is good for the heart, and also opens your eyes to what other people do.

But you would have to be really brave to walk around Harlesden after dark. Having worked there for a while, the views you see when walking consist of groups of 3 or 4 men standing by the railings opposite the clocktower drinking high strength lager and using the ATM's at Lloyds Bank as a urinal. Romantic."

GUnitPop: 27 December 2012 9:38 PM

"To be fair, Lloyds deserves it."

Anonymous said...

Ah, walking. Would that include being able to walk to your local library?

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