Archive for November 4th, 2008

Putting people first

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


Birmingham’s 60s-designed roads gave cars priority over people

(Click to see picture in original context.)

Britain’s top rail pundit, Christian Wolmar, has published a philosophical article questioning urban planning priorities on his blog.

Walking through Holloway, north London today, I was struck at how the road and pavement engineers deliberately make life difficult for pedestrians. To walk half a mile and cross a couple of major roads, I was shunted by so called pedestrian barriers in a way that ensured I had to cover an extra two hundred yards. In fact, as it was early morning, I dodged around them on the road as there were no cars, but I am fit and able to do that.Think how much longer people with poor mobility have to go just to accommodate cars that they are unable to use.

This shows a priority of user which is no longer acceptable. Why should pedestrians, who are using the most environmentally friendly method of travel and who are contributing most to the community – we do not, fortunately, have drive-in shops in Holloway – go the long way round to allow cars to whizz through our patch faster?

Click the link for the rest of the article.

Fortunately attitudes are beginning to change. The next extract is from the urban design compendium website.

The Birmingham Inner Ring Road was completed in 1971.The aim was to remove trunk road traffic from the citycore by building a 3.5 mile road around the centre, punctuated by roundabouts at seven junctions. Although seen as a classic improvement of its time, the ‘Concrete Collar’ is now seen as an impenetrable barrier between the city cantre and the surrounding neighbourhoods. In particular for pedestrians who are required to use the hostile and intimidating psubways at the roundabouts.

Since 1988 Birmingham City Council has adopted a policy of remodelling of the ring road. This has been undertaken to recreate links between the city centre and the neighbouring areas; enable city centre activity to spread into those areas; improve the pedestrian environment across the city, with an emphasis on shifting vehicular movements out to the middle ring road.

Click to read more. Polish urban planners please take note.