This article investigates street architecture on Kentish Town Road and suggests that more needs to be done to reclaim space from parked cars, especially now there is a nationwide policy of social distancing.
The picture above is taken from outside my house on Kentish Town Road in the London Borough of Camden earlier today.
I would say it is typical of a high street in a metropolitan area, especially in London.
After taking a tape measure to the pavement section, this measured up at 390 cm.
Whilst the car parking space measured up at 198 cm.
This is actually pretty good as Inclusive Mobility (2002) advises that ideally the width of the footway should be 200 cm to facilitate two people in wheelchairs to pass each other comfortably. So we can anticipate that there is likely to be pavements in London well under the 390 cm on Kentish Town Road.
Interestingly, according to the British Parking Association, there is a minimum width of 180 cm for on-street parallel parking, so the space here is slightly larger than the minimum.
Where I am going with this, is that with a pavement width of 390 cm, unless there is a segregation system where people walking in different directions pick a side, and stick to the edge, it is challenging to keep 2 metres apart, to meet the governments social distancing requirements.
This could be simplified a lot by reclaiming space dedicated to car parking and using this to create ultra-wide pavement spaces for pedestrians.
There is no need for anything fancy, a simple line of cones and a sign informing of the changes would do.
This predicament reminded me of the excellent illustration by Karl Jilg from the Swedish Road Administration.
Without thinking, over time so much space has been designated to the motor car, that pedestrians have become confined to small patches of land. Hemmed into only the spaces that are left, after copious amounts of space have been designated to moving and stationary cars.
With a highly infectious virus in our midst, now is the perfect time to challenge these norms and reclaim space on Britain’s high streets for pedestrians.
I also believe more space should be segregated to a make space for cyclists, so that people can get to where they need to without the need for public transport. With or without a virus, this makes a great deal of sense. With social distancing measures that will potentially be in place for some time, it is essential.
The UK has been slow to make these kinds of emergency changes. Countries and regions all over the world have been rushing to enact emergency measures to reclaim space to enable socially distanced mobility. Laura Laker has a great article where she summarises all of these changes.
In New Zealand, the Government is helping councils expand footpaths and roll out temporary cycleways to help people keep 2 metres apart until after the lockdown is lifted. This is what real leadership looks like.
Laura has another article on the proposed changes in Hackney. These look good to stop the problem of speeding on roads that are operating at reduced capacity, but do not offer anything for socially distanced mobility for pedestrians or cyclists.
What you need to know
This article investigated reclaiming space on Britain’s high streets for pedestrians to have more space to enjoy socially distanced mobility. In an emergency, car parking spaces on high streets are a luxury we cannot afford.
I also believe space needs to be reclaimed for cyclists. This would significantly reduce pressure on public transport systems.
I appreciate concerns that right now, the priority is on not encouraging the public to travel at all. But I think we need to look beyond that, to a time when travel is allowed, but social distancing is still in force.
A great way to solve the conundrum of busy public transport systems would be to massively encourage the uptake of cycling by potentially novice cyclists. One way to do this is to make it dramatically safer. This can be encouraged in the short term by reclaiming space from car lanes and ensuring that everyone can get from A to B in London on a route that is completely segregated from cars. This would make a big difference.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think needs to be done to enable socially distanced mobility?