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E-scooters, design codes and new tube stations for connectivity

Cross River Partnership's Fiona Coull and Tfl's Christina Calderato speak at Future Cities Forum's 'Sustainable infrastructure and green cities' this week.

A consistent approach across local authorities around e-scooter provision as well as the re-thinking of design codes to help introduce nature into towns and cities was discussed at our 'Sustainable infrastructure and green cities' debate this week at CitizenM, Tower of London.

Tfl's Head of Transport Planning & Strategy - and Healthy Streets campaign, Christina Calderato joined Future Cities Forum along with Tom Perry, Director, LDA Design, Fiona Coull, Lead for Cross River Partnership's Healthy Streets Every Day campaign and Andrew Postings, Director at Scott Brownrigg.

'Active travel has been at the heart of the Mayor of London's strategy since 2018 and this has now accelerated since the pandemic', stated Christina Calderato.

'London has its streets based programme with 100 km of cycling infrastructure having been introduced and measures like these have been implemented at pace because of Covid-19. We want people to move around safely and therefore there have been changes to streets to help social distancing when walking. These were introduced without the usual consultation but now TfL is working with boroughs for permanent changes. We are open to amending them where changes are needed and it is an ongoing programme.

'We are keen to create streets with shade, shelter and clean air, where people want to be and spend time and do not want to give space back to cars. It's all about people reclaiming their streets. Affordability is a hot topic and following short term funding deals with the government, we are now engaged in longer term finance discussions, so we can plan change, but working at pace has taught us so much about widening streets with less disruption and the use of cheaper materials. We do have a lot of data in London about how people move around but we are very keen on community feedback and we want to understand about what people want. They do not often talk about mode stages in their journeys, so we are taking an umbrella strategy and what works well with options that are most appealing.

Two new tube stations - Nine Elms and Battersea Power Station - open today following the completion of the 3 km construction which began in 2015. TfL has delivered the Northern Line Extension £160 million under budget, bringing the estimated final total cost to £1.1 billion. The world-famous Tube map has been updated and access to the two stations will be step free with landscape work created around them. The Northern Line Extension is the first major Tube extension this century and will be supporting around 25,000 new jobs and more than 20,000 new homes.

Christina also spoke of the need to keep different form of mobility in balance in the Capital:

'The introduction of E-scooters has worried some people but there are benefits and we are working with boroughs so that we can have a consistent approach. We are finding ways to enhance it to the greater good. We can't just say this is very difficult because it does create a shift away from cars and we are keen to know how can we fit it within our transport mix.

At a previous forum Westminster City Council's Elad Eisenstein, stated that in order to make London a truly 24 hour city, with safe travel, there should be some consideration towards proper lighting for cyclists. Christina commented:

'We would support this. But there may be a case of not one size fits all. It can be quite location specific. There are some areas that would benefit from proper surveillance where people feel safe because they know that they can be seen. Obviously if we can encourage more cyclists and groups of cyclists, it gives back confidence for people to travel that way at night.'

E-scooters parked in the city of Bath

Fiona Coull from Cross River Partnership added:

'E-scooters are examples of new technologies that are definitely disruptive and policy needs to catch up, but they have certainly helped behaviour change. Street designs need to accommodate technologies like this that makes it safer for people. There have been trials in London and Bristol and we need to monitor them and take on board feed back and the learnings that are embodied in them. It is the way we manage these new technologies so they are appropriate for all street users, for instance, some bikes are just left in all sorts of places and there need to be proper parking areas where you can leave them. Policy needs to catch up.'

'Walking or cycling through the city at night helps you to understand the place you live in and the quality of lighting in public realm affects the relationship with the place' commented Andrew Postings, Director at Scott Brownrigg, ' there has been work on replacing sodium lighting with low energy and we need skilled designers and clients who are interested in lighting buildings at night if we are to enjoy commuting or cycling through our cities after dark.'

Tom Perry, Director at LDA Design described how when visiting Jerusalem he had noticed how many people were using e-scooters, both young and old, enabling everyone to get around the city.

'In the UK we are getting more tolerant of trials because people understand that they can be moderated to achieve the best results long term and the practice of being able to use e-scooters everywhere in London, not just in Stratford where they were first trialled, has had a big impact on behaviour for the better. The Netherlands has put a huge amount of money into cycling infrastructure but you can see even a different culture going on in UK cities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, where more generations are using cycles, often at slower speeds, where everyone can feel safe, and as a result those cities are beginning to feel less car-dominated.'

Healthy streets sketch from LDA Design

Tom also spoke of the importance of developing design codes for better sustainability in cities:

'So I worked on the national model design code about two years ago and the accent there was about beauty in a place, but it didn't touch on sustainability. Now councils have committed to their climate emergency net zero targets but don't all know how to achieve them. RTPI commissioned us to look at spatial planning and transport and now we have a follow up piece of work that will take design codes further to look at sustainability and how we can bring nature back into cities.

'We want to look at how to create quality green spaces around the UK. New developments are not always of a high quality and connectivity is lacking. Design coding and zoning can be helpful at a strategic level, but anyone including developers can pitch their sites and councils make decisions. Often these housing sites are not in the most sustainable positions, often plonked on the edges of cities. So how do you make the right decisions about sites with sustainable transport and energy uses with good choices about last mile transport choices? We are now really trying to de-mystify design codes and what they can achieve.

'Cambridge has significant road building around it but as a city it has been very good at retaining its green belt and restraining growth. Thirty years ago, thinking produced new towns like Cambourne but it isn't an example of good sustainability, it doesn't fulfil the place-making agenda like Eddington (in north west Cambridge) today. So ideas can get out of date but at the moment we are starting to look at the principles of going back to neighbourhood needs. At LDA Design we have been working on three big projects in Newcastle, Oxford and The Strand in London, and the same message from people came back that they all wanted trees and greenery in city centres, so they would have pleasant places to come to and that people were prioritised over cars.

'There are challenges for local authorities in this. Councils have to keep the cost down in terms of maintenance as do rail companies. There the culture is all about de-risking. But I do think we need to bring nature back. Orchards for example tell you so much about the food you are eating and there is much community buy-into town and city orchards, it produces a lot of community spirit.'

Fiona also talked about the quality of preserving place in cities and the issue of EV infrastructure taking up street space and potentially risking the look of places:

'With EV infrastructure we must keep a people centric approach to planning, a local approach to place-making, balancing the needs for travel. The pandemic has highlighted how we use vehicles in cities and the need to walk, live locally and enjoy our green spaces. Our real aim should be to reduce vehicles on streets.

'We shouldn't forget blue infrastructure. where rivers present an exciting opportunity. We are working with the Port of London Authority on the potential of using existing piers for light freight. These are not always being utilised in early morning or late at night. Exploiting these could reduce road vehicle movements into cities and take a lot off freight traffic off the streets.

Sustainable infrastructure and place-making should embrace all members of society stated Andrew Postings from Scott Brownrigg:

'There has been a drive by a number of mayors to increase the general accessibility to all members of society along with TfL and Network Rail. The aim has been to help those with visual disability or who are deaf to navigate stations whether it is to leisure or work. Great strides have been made but there is more to do.

South Woodford step-free station on the Piccadilly Line (CGI from Scott Brownrigg)

Scott Brownrigg was appointed to develop existing early design options for step free access schemes at three London Underground Stations. With the firms' knowledge of the London Underground environment and its systems and processes, it proposed a scalable and deliverable solution adaptable for all surface stations. The proposals were developed in conjunction with the London Underground Design Governance Board and various Local Authority Conservation Officers.

Additional project work has seen Scott Brownrigg carry out designs for the PPP Station Modernisation and Enhancement Programme of works on the Piccadilly Line. Listed status was identified as well as features of significant historic importance requiring special attention. The aim was to produce a balance between the station's heritage and current technology requirements to provide appropriate level of operator and passenger performance. A line-wide exercise with Historic England was carried out to ensure that there was a consistency in approach and detail between the stations.

Andrew spoke positively about tackling net zero through current hydrogen production as it is increasing and helping to achieve sustainable goals in railway management and building.

Join our COP 26 forum this October to discuss more about new green energy networks for cities and sustainable infrastructure.


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