Report on community severance workshop

Post by Dr Paulo Rui Anciaes

Last week the Street Mobility team held a workshop about community severance in central London, bringing together a group of 24 experts from local authorities, NGOs, universities and consultancy companies. The aim of this workshop was to share different perspectives about severance

We would like to thank all the participants for their time and for sharing their expertise in what was a very productive afternoon.

The workshop started with a series of presentations by the project team about the objectives of our research, the two first case studies (Woodberry Down and Finchley Road), and the strategies for engaging with local communities.

The participants then split into small groups and discussed a set of topics including the causes and effects of severance and the methods to analyse and to solve the problem.

The following issues were raised in more than one group and are two good examples of aspects that can be overlooked when researchers do not listen to the voices of transport practitioners and local communities:

1) There is always a solution to reduce severance. “Big solutions” like burying roads or shifting traffic to other parts of the city are not always feasible or desirable, due to their cost, effects on traffic patterns and lack of political support. However, there is a range of other possible interventions at a smaller scale that have a relatively small impact on traffic flows but still reduce the barrier effect of these flows on pedestrians. Several participants gave examples of cases where roads were redesigned to become more pedestrian-friendly, such asĀ Maid Marian Way in Nottingham. Shared space was also mentioned as another possible solution.

2) Severance is not always a negative thing. It may be neutral, for example, when people do not wish to cross a road because there are no places on the other side where they want to go. Severance can also be a positive thing, when barriers mark out one group’s territory. Policy-makers and researchers should not make the assumption that communities want to be connected. Severance created by natural barriers (e.g. rivers and canals) can also be positive, because these barriers, or the areas around them, have amenity value.

This and other feedback is useful to inform our project, including the questions that we ask and the methods we use to answer these questions.

In the next two blog entries we will take a closer look into our case studies. In the meanwhile, you can follow us on Twitter @StreetMobility.