Category Archives: Case studies

Exploring Case Study Four: Stratford Road, Birmingham

Post by Dr. Jemima Stockton

In a geographical departure from the previous case studies of the Street Mobility project, the fourth is in Warwickshire, the West Midlands (see Map 1). The chosen area (shown in the Map 2) is around 3km south east of Birmingham city centre and covers approximately 1.5 square kilometres. It has a high concentration of homes, a good mix of destinations – greenspace, schools, healthcare facilities, businesses, shops and other services – and the streets are well-connected. These attributes make it very walkable – in theory. However, it is also bisected by a 1.5km-stretch of a busy road – Stratford Road (also known as the A41, see Photo 1) – which carries an average of almost 30,000 vehicles per day. This potentially detracts from the ease with which people can get around on foot or by other non-motorised means. Therefore, we have identified the area as one in which we’d expect to find community severance – the separation of people from goods, services and by transport infrastructure and motorised traffic – and one which makes an ideal case to study for the project.

Map 1 Locations of the four case studies: (1) Woodberry Down, London borough of Hackney; (2) Finchley Road, London borough of Camden; (3) Queensway, Southend-on-Sea, ; and (4) Stratford Road, near Birmingham, West Midlands.


Map 2 Stratford Road study area and route walked by team.


By selecting our fourth case study in a different region of the UK, we can investigate community severance in a new context. Housing in our Birmingham case study area comprises predominately nineteenth century, two-storey terraces on long residential streets which branch off main feeder roads for the city (see Photo 1). In contrast, we have found housing in our other case study areas is more mixed: modern apartments and social housing in addition to older, terraced homes located on both minor and major roads. Given the differences in the types of housing and residential layouts, we may find a different pattern in social contact between neighbours in Case Study Four, and in the ways this is affected by traffic.

Photo 1 Stratford Road


As shown in Map 2, Case Study Four encompasses three suburban regions: Sparkhill to the east, Sparkbrook to the north and Mosely to the west. The area is delineated to the west by a railway line and, to the east, by the River Cole. The most northerly point of Stratford Road included in the area is the junction with the A41 (Warwick Road), and the most southerly is where it crosses the River Cole. Stratford Road and Stoney Lane/ Yardley Wood Road, to the west, are both bus routes into the city, with several bus stops. However, there are no rail stations within our case study area; the nearest is Small Health, around 800m to the north.

All the members of the Street Mobility team work and live in or near London and none of us know Birmingham well. But it’s useful for researchers to have first-hand experience of the places they study. So, on a mercifully dry and non-dreary Friday in April, several members of the team hopped on the train to visit the area. From Small Heath, the aforementioned station, we had a short trek to our case study area, passing a ski slope (not real; although the West Midlands is hilly and chilly, it is only moderately so) on the site of the former Birmingham Small Arms Company, and wandered around, soaking up the atmosphere and thinking about how it felt to be a pedestrian. As shown on the map, our “first-hand experience” as pedestrians was largely confined to the busy Stratford Road. During our three-hour field trip (11am to 2pm), we spotted a lot of cars, quite a few lorries and vans, and about six cyclists. We were surprised that we did not see more pedestrians. Given the day, the time and the large Muslim population of the area – around 70% of the Sparkbrook population is Muslim – it may have been that many people were at school, work or Friday prayer.

We observed that motorised traffic was moving fairly steadily, with no signs of congestion. No doubt at rush hour it would have looked a little different. It was also moving pretty rapidly; the professor of transport on the trip agreed with my perception that a number of drivers were speeding above the 20 miles per hour limit on certain stretches of Stratford Road. This was worrying, as we also noted that many pedestrians were crossing the road at informal points, often emerging from between parked cars, following ‘desire lines’.

By happy accident, our case study area is home to Birmingham’s famous Balti triangle, a hotbed for Balti houses thanks to the local Pakistani and Kashmiri communities. But unfortunately, when our tummies rumbled towards the end of our stroll, we couldn’t silence (or at least fill) them with curries as none of the restaurants we passed were open. Nor, indeed could we fill them with anything at all. One pub we tried was shut for lunch. Another, strangely, was not serving lunch until after 2pm. The super-friendly Brummie barmaid suggested that we try the nearest restaurant which she knew would be open. Unfortunately, it was twelve minutes away. By car…..

Photo 2 A long residential road branching off Stratford Road




Post by Dr. Paulo Rui Anciaes

We have now chosen our third case study area: Southend-on-Sea. The town is well-known for being located at the mouth of the Thames estuary, and for being the nearest seaside resort from London. Southend is also one the largest urban areas in the East of England, with 174,300 residents.

We are especially interested in Queensway, a road connecting Southend Central Station with the waterfront. The road was built in the 1970s, carving through an existing residential area. Some of this area had been redeveloped in the 1960s, but most of the housing was constructed before the 1920s. The map below shows the dramatic changes this area experienced during the 1970s.

Southend1© Crown Copyright database right 2014. Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service. All rights reserved

Queensway is a dual carriageway. The amount of traffic is not very high (comparing with most roads in London). However, the road infrastructure itself is a barrier to the movement of pedestrians, because there are guard railings preventing pedestrians from crossing the road along most of the length of the road.

Southend2Base layer: © Crown Copyright database right 2014. Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service. All rights reserved. Information on pedestrian crossings added by the Street Mobility team.

Some of us went to Southend for a first field trip some weeks ago. We would like to thank Sue Goss and Neil Hoskins from Southend Borough Council for showing us around.

The photo below shows the main roundabout in this area. Roads and car traffic are clearly the dominant element of the landscape, although this place is just 5-10 minutes walking from major destinations, such as the two Southend train stations, the town centre, a large shopping centre, and educational institutions such as South Essex College, and the Southend campus of the University of Essex.

CIMG6933Our visit was on a particularly cold day in January. Unfortunately, our camera decided to freeze and stopped working, so we could not get any more photographs. However, the following images from Google Street View are a good illustration of the options pedestrians have for crossing Queensway. The footbridge is not very convenient for people with mobility restrictions. In the big roundabout, the only option for crossing is a pedestrian subway. Many pedestrians seem to avoid using this subway and cross on the surface, despite the danger. In the section of the road between this and another roundabout, 500m to the South, there is another pedestrian subway and a (very) staggered pelican crossing.



We are now starting to look at this case study in more detail. Mapping For Change will start exploring the area soon and engage with local residents. The rest of the Street Mobility team will do the data collection later this year, after we test our tools in the two London case studies (Woodberry Down and Finchley Road).

Second advisory group meeting

We held the second meeting of the Street Mobility advisory group at the UK Health Forum on 24th November. The meeting was an opportunity to share the progress we’ve made since the first time the advisory group met back in March.

Jenny Mindell summarised the outputs of the project over the previous 10 months, and then the advisors heard progress reports from the different aspects of the research:

  • Results of community mapping in Woodberry Down (Barbara Brayshay)
  • Development of the My neighbourhood, my streets questionnaire (Sadie Boniface)
  • Traffic and pedestrian video survey in Woodberry Down (Paulo Anciaes)
  • Walkability index development and neighbourhood mapping pilot (Ashley Dhanani)
  • Valuing community severance using a stated preference survey (Paulo Anciaes)

Next Jenny Mindell described the selection criteria we have agreed are important for the two community severance case studies outside London we hope to select soon. Potential sites were presented by Jo Cleary – a sustainable travel consultant – who used her contacts to identify sites which match our criteria. These included Norwich (the A147), Tividale in Sandwell (the A4123), Stoke on Trent (the A50), Newark (the B326), Wolverhampton, and Huntingdon/Godmanchester (the A14).

These potential sites were discussed and it was agreed that the research team needs to look into some of these in more detail before we choose our non-London case studies. We will post details of the case studies once they have been chosen.

Thank you to the UK Health Forum for hosting the meeting, and we look forward to sharing more of our findings and details of our next case studies next time.

Living with the Seven Sisters Road

Post by Dr Barbara Brayshay, originally posted on the Mapping for Change blog

Word Cloud from Woodberry Down Perception Mapping
Word Cloud from Woodberry Down Perception Mapping

Community mapping from the first pilot for the Street Mobility Project has provided interesting insights into how the people of Woodberry Down have adapted to the presence of a major busy road cutting through their estate. They told us how communities and movement networks evolved round connected neighbourhoods on different sides of the road, most often made up of the friends and neighbours in their housing block.

There was a real community – We all knew each other, our children grew up together and you knew who your neighbours were, we all looked out for each other and the children. We never really went over Seven Sisters Road, there was no real need to – Woodberry Down resident (80).

Residents have created individual movement patterns and preferred route ways in order to accommodate and avoid the heavy traffic flows and perceived dangers of the road. However they report a major barrier to mobility is the experience of attempting to cross the road, even in places where there are effective facilities in place:

Crossing that road (Seven Sisters) makes me feel like “A fairy on a rock cake” all of a dither – Woodberry Down resident (86).

Seven Sisters Road is like a drag strip. Motorbikes race each other I have seen so many accidents – Woodberry Down Resident (50).

Personal mobility and barrier mapping
Personal mobility and barrier mapping

The unfortunate experience of one elderly resident highlighted the dangers and the impact that having to cross the road can have on mobility and independence. A previously independent 97 year old now feels unable to go out as a result of falling in the central reservation. Harry, aged 97, recently fell on the central reservation when crossing Seven Sisters Road and had to go to hospital, he says he has “aged twenty years since the fall” before he fell he used to go to Stamford Hill, South Tottenham “everywhere” but now he is afraid to go out and says he has lost his confidence.

Older residents participate in both formal and informal recreational and leisure activities locally and in some cases ventured further afield. They enjoy walking on the pathways round the West Reservoir and to Finsbury Park and Clisshold Park to make use of nearby green space. However fear of crime and feelings of insecurity were major barriers to participation in evening or night time activities. Especially single residents said that being “home alone” in the evenings, particularly in winter limited their sense of well-being and social connectedness.

I get fed up of an evening staring at the four walls, I end up talking to them like Shirley Valentine “hello wall” – Woodberry Down Resident (50).

New families moving into the area are beginning to create their own social networks, re-negotiating the space and making their own personal geographies around the Seven Sisters Road, using alternative routes to avoid having to cross or walk alongside the main road with children. The location benefits from excellent public transport links and to a large extent this allows residents to avoid the traffic.


Initial findings from this first pilot study have shown that participatory mapping is a useful tool for exploring community severance and that the processes at work, both culturally and physically appear to be more complex and subtle than those identified in the original Appleyard and Lintell’s (1972) seminal study. Work is now underway on the second pilot area in Finchley Road which will no doubt throw up more interesting perspectives on the strategies that people adopt, as they age, in order to go about their daily lives when living alongside busy roads.

  1. Appleyard, D. , & Lintel, M. (1972). The environmental quality of city streets: The residents’ viewpoint. Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 38(2),84-101.

Finchley Road – Once a country lane, now a city motorway

Post by Dr Paulo Rui Anciaes

This post is a brief overview of the history of Finchley Road, one of the two London case studies of our project. The study will look at the section where the road crosses the neighbourhood of South Hampstead, just North of Regent’s Park. Finchley Road station is in the middle of this section.

Imagedigimap_roam_FR - Copy© Crown Copyright/ database right 2014. Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service. All rights reserved

The map below shows how the area looked like in 1880. The area where Finchley Road station is now was then at the edge of London. The area north of the station was rural farmland. Finchley Road was built in 1829 (as “Finchley New Road”) to provide a new route to (horse-drawn) traffic from central London to the northern part of the country.

Image© Crown Copyright/ database right 2014. Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service. All rights reserved

Just 10 years later, in 1890, the area already looked very similar to the way it does today. The fast urban development was linked to the opening of new rail stations in this area, including Finchley Road, South Hampstead and West Hampstead in 1879 and West End Lane (now West Hampstead overground station) in 1888.

Image© Crown Copyright/ database right 2014. Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service. All rights reserved

The steady growth in car ownership and suburban development during the 20th century changed the character of Finchley Road. The road became more and more important for the distribution of car traffic from the growing northern suburbs to central London and, after the construction of the M1 motorway in the 1960s, also for the distribution of traffic leaving the motorway at Brent Cross Junction, 5km to the Northwest.

Finchley Road was redesigned over the years to accommodate the increase of the traffic, transforming the road into what is effectively a city motorway, with three lanes of traffic in each direction and barriers separating pavements from carriageway and the two directions of traffic flow. By the 1970s, the road was already an obstacle to the movement of pedestrians, as these pictures show:

ImageImage© Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Traffic levels increased even further since these pictures were taken. In some parts, physical barriers now separate pedestrians from the carriageway. Pedestrians also have to wait a long time to cross at traffic lights. There is an underpass near Finchley Road station, but it can be intimidating, and is not an alternative for people with mobility issues. The railway lines just North of Finchley Road station contribute to the physical and psychological separation between different parts of this neighbourhood.

In February this year, Transport for London has announced that the junction near Swiss Cottage station will be redesigned, which will improve the conditions of what is one of the most problematic parts of Finchley Road for pedestrians.

Our second case study: Finchley Road

Post by Dr Sadie Boniface

Another site we have visited is Finchley Road in the London Borough of Camden. Many of us on the Street Mobility team agree that the part of the road close to Finchley Road underground station is an obvious barrier to pedestrians due to the speed and volume of traffic, with physical barriers reinforcing this – a textbook example of community severance.

The section of Finchley Road we are interested in is roughly from Finchley Road & Frognal station in the north to Swiss Cottage in the south (boundaries TBC). At the moment, we are undecided as to how to define the edges of our case study area to the east and west. Our challenge here is how do we define ‘the community’ of pedestrians who may be experiencing severance in the absence of a specific population or clear geographic area (as there was in Woodberry Down) to study?

Google map showing approximate boundaries of Finchley Road case study area (boundaries TBC). Click the image for the full map
Google map showing approximate boundaries of Finchley Road case study area (boundaries TBC). Click the image for the full map

In this case study we would be mainly looking at the effects of the road, although there are some railway lines that may also be of relevance to Street Mobility. Finchley Road, like Seven Sisters Road (in Woodberry Down) is six lanes wide and very busy, with around 37,000 vehicles a day (based on 2012 data, though using the same data for 2011 there were 54,000 vehicles).

Public transport provision is good, with the underground and several bus routes. There are many shops and restaurants on both sides of the road, and a number of these have signs, seating, or items for sale out on the street. However, in terms of other features along the street, there are few trees or benches. Along Finchley Road barriers have been put in place as a safety measure to prevent pedestrians crossing the road away from designated crossings (‘informal crossing’).

Finchley Road looking North. Note the barrier at the side of the road.
Finchley Road looking North. Note the barriers at the side of the road.

According to the 2011 Census, some parts of the area have a high proportion of older people, while other parts have a lower proportion. The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2010 data suggest that – as in many parts of London – there are relatively deprived and relatively affluent parts of this area coexisting side by side (maps here).

Members of the Street Mobility team hope to meet the borough’s public health team soon to discuss the area as a case study. This area is a very different case to Woodberry Down which as we saw in an earlier post is undergoing extensive redevelopment. This presents us with different opportunities to speak to an established community about whether severance issues affect them, and new challenges in making contact with this community which will be led by Mapping for Change. We are looking forward to investigating whether and how community severance affects this area, and will post updates about our workshops soon. Please come back soon or follow us on Twitter @StreetMobility.

Announcing our first case study: Woodberry Down

Post by Dr Sadie Boniface

We have been busy visiting potential case study areas and feeding back on the suitability of the different areas to the wider Street Mobility team. I am pleased to say that this has been very productive and we now have our first case study confirmed: Woodberry Down, in the London borough of Hackney. The approximate boundaries of the area we plan to study are shown below:

Google map showing approximate boundaries of Woodberry Down  case study area (click for full map)
Google map showing approximate boundaries of Woodberry Down case study area (click the image for the full map)

The area is bounded by reservoirs to the South, a river to the North, and Green Lanes to the West. Seven Sisters Road, a six-lane road which carries around 40,000 vehicles a day (based on 2012 data), runs through the middle of the area. This road is the most apparent feature that might be causing community severance.

Public transport provision is good, with Manor House underground station close by and a number of bus routes running along Seven Sisters Road. However there are a number of features of the existing pedestrian environment that could be contributing to community severance. When we visited the area we identified that there are few benches along Seven Sisters Road, and while there is a lot of green space in the surrounding area (e.g. Finsbury Park), there is little along the road itself. We also noticed that the locations of pedestrian crossings were not always consistent with the locations of bus stops, which can encourage people to cross the road at other places (known as informal crossing).

Seven Sisters Road running through the Woodberry Down area
Seven Sisters Road running through the Woodberry Down area

According to the 2011 census, the population of Woodberry Down was 3,733 (counting the neighbourhoods inside the triangle formed by the New River and Green Lanes). Hackney in general, the population in Woodberry Down is relatively young, with less than 25% of the population over 50 years of age in most parts of the neighbourhood. In Street Mobility we are primarily interested in barriers to walking among older people, so we might have to make extra effort to make contact with this group.

The area is undergoing enormous redevelopment by Berkeley Homes and Genesis Housing Association. According to Hackney Council, the phased demolition of 1,981 homes has begun (mainly post-war social housing) and more than 4,600 social rented, private and shared ownership new homes are being built. There will be many new residents in Woodberry Down and the demographic composition is likely to change. In addition, the redevelopment will bring changes to the commercial and leisure facilities in the area and there have also been talks of narrowing the Seven Sisters Road to four lanes (from six). We are optimistic about making contact with community groups and networks formed in response to consultations on the redevelopment in our upcoming workshops that will be led by Mapping for Change. Members of the Street Mobility team hope to meet the borough’s public health team soon as well.

In a time of such change, the Street Mobility team is really excited to come to Woodberry Down to investigate community severance. We will post updates about our community workshops very soon – watch this space!