Creating better streets: Inclusive and accessible places

This 2018 report from the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) provides practical guidance into how streets and public spaces can become more accessible and inclusive, in keeping with the Equality Act 2010. The report outlines findings from a review of 11 shared-space schemes across England and categorises these into three broad types: pedestrian prioritised streets, informal streets, and enhanced streets. Practical advice and case study examples of improving streets are also provided.

Date added 11 January 2022
Last updated 11 January 2022

*This resource is about creating better streets. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to accessibility, recreational space, and safety priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

This 2018 report from the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) provides practical guidance into how streets and public spaces can become more accessible and inclusive, with a better balance between their ‘movement’ and ‘place’ functions, and to conform to the Equality Act 2010. As the authors suggest, however (p.4):

In many locations, motor vehicles have become dominant to the detriment of a wide group of users, both in terms of their ability to move around and in the quality of the place itself. This situation has sometimes resulted in streets being avoided by particular types of users... 

The report examines 11 schemes across England which have undertaken shared-space initiatives; that is, “a street or place designed to improve pedestrian movement and comfort by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles and enabling all users to share the space” (p.10). The objectives these schemes are measured against are as follows:

  • Inclusive environment- perception of safety, comfort and navigation, presence of vulnerable users etc.
  • Ease of movement- levels of walking, cycling and public transport use, traffic congestion, number and ease of pedestrian crossings etc.
  • Safety and public health- motor vehicle speed, noise levels, number of casualties etc.
  • Quality of place- levels of place activity, attractiveness, quality of maintenance and cleansing etc.
  • Economic benefit– footfall, frequency of special events, and prosperity of businesses.

Through this review, three main broad types of street design approach that have been referred to as creating ‘shared space’ are identified:

1. Pedestrian prioritised streets

"This type of street has been created where the aim has been to create conditions whereby drivers and riders feel they should give priority to pedestrians, and where pedestrians feel comfortable in accepting that priority” (p.11).

2. Informal streets

"Streets where formal traffic controls (signs, markings and signals) are absent or reduced. There is a footway and carriageway, but the differentiation between them is typically less than in a conventional street” (p.11) and “... used with the overall aim of creating a street where the higher volume of traffic does not dominate non-vehicular users” (p.12).

3. Enhanced streets

"Conventional streets where care has been taken to improve the quality of the place... through the removal of unnecessary street clutter, particularly pedestrian guardrails which reduce people’s freedom of movement, and by the introduction of features such as seating, public art and street trees, which improve their experience of simply being there” (p.13).

Based on the above review, the report provides 15 recommendations, including that the government makes clear to local authorities their duties of conforming to the Equality Act 2010 in public realm improvements, the above objectives are used by local authorities when developing public realm improvement schemes, and that the government makes clear that stakeholder engagement is a crucial part of such schemes.  

The report concludes by presenting case studies of the 11 street improvement schemes included in the review:

  1. Elwick Square, Ashford
  2. Exhibition road, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
  3. Holbein Place, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
  4. Leonard Circus, London Borough of Hackney
  5. Fountain Place, Poynton, Cheshire
  6. Gosford Street, Coventry
  7. Kimbrose Triangle, Gloucester
  8. Fishergate, Preston, Lancashire
  9. Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk
  10. Walworth Road, London Borough of Southwark
  11. Borehamwood, Hertfordshire.