Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bad News Dept: “Manual for Streets” ignored in Wales.

“Manual for Streets, published March 2007 by the UK Department for Transport, gives new advice for the design of residential streets in England and Wales. It represents a strong Government and Welsh Assembly commitment to the creation of sustainable and inclusive public spaces.”

“The Department’s policy-making process received an award recently, with Traffic Management Division winning a Royal Town Planning Institute prize for its Manual for Streets. The award recognizes that it is radically changing designers' and local authorities' approach to residential street design for the better. It emphasizes that streets should be places in which people want to live and spend time in, and are not just transport corridors. In particular, it aims to reduce the impact of vehicles on residential streets by asking practitioners to plan street design intelligently and proactively, and gives a high priority to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport.” – From the Dft project website (below).

The report is available at

Yes but when you get to the street in Wales here is what you see (Ian Perry reporting from Cardiff). . .

All Local Authorities in Wales have failed to respond to the offer of training or more information on the Manual for Streets according to one of its authors. The document is based on solid research and has won much praise and many awards and yet Local Authorities continue to design streets as they always have...

Only one person out of the 20 people in attendance at a presentation on the Manual for Streets organized by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, held in the council offices of Cardiff Council, worked for a Local Authority (and not Cardiff), with the remainder working in the private sector as engineers or consultants – who reported that private developers were interested in applying the findings of the research into Manual for Streets, but wary of Local Authorities refusing to adopt streets.

It would seem that the public sector in Wales is not interested in embracing different practices.

Thanks to the watchful Eyes on the Street and World Streets Correspondent, Ian Perry, Cardiff, Wales, UK

Editor’s note: We strongly invite commentary and if available further information on lessons to be learned from this experience.

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1 comment:

  1. Not having ever been to the UK, I don't really know how things work there, but the diffusion of innovation process takes awhile, and more than two years. How well developed are the workshops? How well developed is the communication process (i.e., see the work on "social marketing" and such tomes as _Strategic Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations_)?

    E.g., in part to increase demand for local authorities to pay attention to urban design, the citizens have to be knowledgeable and demand the local authorities be responsive.

    Or what about "Green Places," the fantastic magazine published by the Landscape Design Trust (I read it regularly at a college architecture library in DC). They feature articles on these kinds of topics in every issue. How about getting them to do a special focused issue on how the manual is being implemented in projects across Wales...

    Many years ago I came across this UK initiative:, to provide guidance and assistance to local authorities on "historic environment and local management" issues. Maybe that's a model for you.

    (And as an advocacy push, Parking Day in the U.S. But the road witches started in England before we did in the U.S.: Road Witch Trial (UK) )

    More importantly (recognize I am a systems thinker), you have to look at this experience of not getting local authorities engaged, and working backwards to figure out the problems more generally in the process and the innovation diffusion process in Wales and then the "solutions" or "technologies" designed to address the "problem." (E.g., the "Mayor's Institute for City Design" in the U.S. is a training project designed to improve the knowledge level on these issues for mayors. Recently, an equivalent institute was created for state governors. But we don't provide the same resources for city and county council members and state legislators. Since that is the level I work at, I see the problems of lack of knowledge every day--it's what I write about in my blog almost daily.)

    The academic study of the innovation diffusion process in the United States came about because of the agricultural extension program, created in the 1860s. In fact, the field of community development is derived from ag. extension (rural community development)--at least in the U.S.

    Now you can read Malcolm Gladwell's _The Tipping Point_, but before you do, instead I highly recommend the original integrative work, which was expanded into the classic, _Diffusion of Innovations_ by Everett Rogers. (and there are lots of hits to this work from a google search).

    Also note the issue with automobility. Not to mention the issue between traffic and civil engineers vs. urban design.

    Publications such as the one you mention, have been published in the U..S. for at least the last ten years (this book from Oregon is about 10 years old: Main Street: When a Highway Runs Through It, there are equivalent publications from highway depts, in Maryland and New Jersey). Places advocates would argue that it is still a hard slog today... that little progress has been made.

    Automobility as a paradigm is hard to turn around in 2 years. It's had about 100 years to become inculcated. And making the roads safe for automobiles has shaped the entire profession of civil engineering and road building.


    Richard Layman
    Washington, DC


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