Intro to...Pedestrianisation

Intro to...Pedestrianisation

Before the automobile, urban streets were primarily designed to be traversed on foot and towns were built around the needs of pedestrians. This produced a rich urban tapestry that had a profound influence on the emergence of the urban metropolis and helped form the intellectual, economic and cultural dynamics underpinning modern civilisation.

breeding grounds for creativity

It was the need to be in close proximity with customers and employees that led to the clustering of commercial enterprises, creating choice, competition and knowledge alongside cultural districts where ideas and contacts were exchanged. Pedestrianised areas were (and still are) breeding grounds for creativity as vendors and craftspeople came together to create food, arts and craft cultures.

New car on the block

drove all other forms of transport to the periphery

Then automobiles crashed onto the scene and quickly drove all other forms of transport to the periphery. Street design shifted focus to accommodate cars and motorists with an array of measures that radically altered the built environment. Streets were no longer made for walking. New car-supporting structures were introduced ("pavement", "curb", "crossing", "parking", "junction", "gas station", "garage" etc) and constructed on a massive scale.

It is hard to appreciate just how much this mode of transport has affected the world around us. In physical space terms alone, the proportion of land dedicated to automobile travel has been estimated to be as high as 70% in the largest US cities. Automobiles consume huge amounts of valuable land space compared with walking, cycling and bus travel.

Becoming more pedestrian

Today, even the most ardent motorists would admit urban development has been overly car-centric to the detriment of residential, civic and commercial areas - not to mention the environment. Around the world, places are re-discovering the wide-ranging benefits of pedestrianisation and its power to rejuvenate a local area and economy.

This blog will look at how and why places are embracing their pedestrian side.