Blog: More Than Just A to B by Emma Lally

27 Mar 2024

This blog has been authored by Emma Lally, WPA NextGen Chair and Principal Consultant at Momentum Transport Consultancy.

The role of streets in the City of Westminster is evolving. Emerging proposals and revised streetscape designs for Oxford Street and Regent Street show change is underfoot. Whilst the scale of transformation varies, one thing is clear – streets are becoming more than just a way from A to B.

The proposed changes across Westminster reflect a broader shift with streets increasingly being considered as multifunctional spaces. In an era marked by an increased focus on sustainability, less air pollution and quality of life, this re-evaluation prioritises the needs and well-being of people using streets.

Streets form a key part of councils’ public spaces, there are 13,600km of streets in London and so the potential impact of this transformation is huge. Studies have demonstrated that public realm enhancements to improve pedestrians’ experience can increase footfall by up to a third.

But just how transformative do proposals need to be to ensure this potential is realised?

The type and scale of change is influenced by the place and movement function of a street, a matrix definition used to define a street type. Place function is a measure of how far people are travelling from to access the street, whilst movement function is a measure of the strategic importance of the street in moving people and freight. Regent Street and Oxford Street both have a so-called ‘high place’ and ‘high movement function’, as both streets are of international significance and contribute to the city-wide movement of people.

Streets with a high place function do not necessarily prioritise the needs and well-being of people, while streets with a high movement function can prioritise the well-being of people.

Proposals for Regent Street aim to retain its high place function whilst redefining its movement function. Space for vehicles will be reduced by half, with an increase in dedicated zones for active travel. This will aim to support the number of people walking and wheeling along the new green link.

As Westminster continues to progress its Transport Strategy, recent proposals are setting the tone for a strategic plan focussed on ensuring the City’s streets are places that do more than just connect A to B. Who knows maybe Park Lane will be next…

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