WALKING AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
The public realm is primarily for people walking
(judged by the number of users). Pedestrian flows are rarely measured.
Yet so great are the flows that some of our public spaces suffer
from chronic pedestrian congestion. These include Oxford Street
where people spill out into the carriageway and around underground
stations. Stations such as Victoria have to restrict access to
pedestrians for short periods to ease congestion.
"In situations where the degree of crowding
can be determined freely, the upper limit for an acceptable density
in streets and on sidewalks with two-way pedestrian traffic appears
to be around 10-15 pedestrians per minute per metre street width.
This corresponds to a pedestrian flow of some 100 people per minute
in a ten metre wide pedestrian street."(Jan Gehl in
"Life between Buildings")
"Narrow buildings have the fine effect of
making streets more interesting because narrow units mean many
doors and many different functions to look at even on a short
walk through town. Narrow buildings which have a predominantly
vertical facade structure have the important visual effect of
making distances feel shorter. This makes it more pleasant and
comfortable to walk around the city."
"Activities inside buildings and those on
the street can enrich each other. In the evenings, friendly light
shines out of the windows of shops and other group floor activities,
contributing to a feeling of security as well as to genuine safety."
Features of most unattractive ground floor facades
to walkers are:
Large units with few or no doors.
No visible variation in function.
Closed or passive facades.
Lack of detail, nothing interesting
to look at.
"Walking is cheap, low-noise, environmentally
friendly form of transportation, which allows streets to hold
larger volumes of (pedestrian) traffic. Walking means exercise,
fresh air, and the chance to promenade. Walking can be fun. Walking
allows time to look around at the surroundings, to window-shop,
and see events. Walking also lets people stop, change direction,
and experience things."(Jan Gehl in "Public Spaces
The Government's latest guidance on design and
the planning system is By Design; other relevant publications
are Places Streets and MovementA supplement to Design Bulletin
32. Work on Urban Villages is also relevant: these are conceived
as walkable communities based typically on a ten minute walking
time. Briefing sheets on these publications are enclosed.