Street Mobility update: first outputs

During July, the Street Mobility team presented some of the outputs of the project in international conferences.

In early July, Ashley Dhanani participated in the International Making Cities Liveable Conference in Bristol and presented his new walkability index for London, which is based on input gathered from our community engagement activities. The results of workshops with local residents in our study areas suggested, for example that public transport accessibility should be added as a variable that contributes to walkability. The model also uses space syntax methods to examine the spatial relationships of streets at a range of scales, which provides a better representation of pedestrian wayfinding behaviour than the standard approach of measuring intersection density.

Also in early July, Jennifer Mindell co-organised, with Karyn Warsow (from Transportation Public Health Link), the 1st International Conference on Transport and Health, an event to set up a structure for discussion and bring people of diverse disciplines working on the link between transport and health. The conference was held at UCL from 6-8 July. Several members of the project attended this conference.

THSource: TPH Link

On the first day of the conference, Paulo Anciaes presented the results of our video surveys in Woodberry Down and Finchley Road to assess how pedestrians react to busy roads. The surveys showed for example, that pedestrian flows along Seven Sisters Road are relatively low comparing with parallel streets, if we take into account that all the main destinations for pedestrians in Woodberry Down (i.e. tube and bus stops) are located on that road. The surveys have also identified several types of risky crossing behaviours in both case study areas, such as crossing away from signalised crossing facilities.

On the last day of the conference, Sadie Boniface presented preliminary results from our survey to assess the effects of severance on health and wellbeing in our case study areas. The majority of respondents reported experiencing problems getting around their local area due to the danger from traffic, noise, and air pollution. They also knew more neighbours on their side of the road than on the opposite side.

In the end of July, Jennifer Mindell and Paulo Anciaes participated in the 14th International Conference on Mobility and Transport for Elderly and Disabled Persons (TRANSED 2015), which was held at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon.

8119051990_ccbbda7abe_oLisbon. CC BY 2.0 portobay

4745515680_14a49095b3_oCC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Art Library Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian

Paulo presented an overview of the Street Mobility project, explaining how the different activities of the project (community engagement, video surveys, street audits, health and wellbeing survey, stated preference survey, and spatial analysis) relate to each other and lead to a holistic understanding of the effects of busy roads on local communities.

In another session, Paulo presented the results of our literature review of the methods used by governments to measure the effects of busy roads on local accessibility, and the proposals that researchers have been making since the 1970s to improve those methods.

The literature review has just been published in the Transport Reviews journal.

As we wrote our literature review, we noticed that researchers have proposed many different definitions of “community severance” and have used different concepts (such as “barrier effect”) to describe what is assumed to be the same phenomenon. So we collected and analysed all these different definitions (we found 60 of them) and proposed a new definition, which we hope it will synthesize all past efforts. This is documented in a new working paper, which is now available in our website.

During the TRANSED conference, the team also met Pedro Gouveia who is working on the Lisbon Pedestrian Accessibility Plan, which includes a chapter on severance caused by motorways and railways. This will be the topic of a future blog post.



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).


Post by Dr. Jennifer Mindell

In Bogotá, Colombia, one of the main roads is closed to traffic for miles on one side of the dual carriageway every Sunday morning and lunchtime for ‘Ciclovía’. Think of Euston Road or Princess Road or your local main road with motor vehicles restricted to one side of the central reservation and thousands of people walking, jogging, cycling, skateboarding, and rollerblading in a two-way stream on the other side of the road. People of all ages take part, including babies being pushed in buggies and young children learning to ride a bike.

2015-01-25 Bogotá Ciclovía 12_2015-01-25 Bogotá Ciclovía 11_It is not only an excellent, and safe, way to be physically active. There is also a sense of fun and of community that is hard to explain. I started out by walking on the pavement, where I was an observer. It felt quite different as a participant, when I walked in the road along with the cyclists and other pedestrians.

Concern is often expressed in the UK about unsegregated, shared use paths. Some pedestrians say they feel threatened by cyclists; some cyclists express frustration about people in their way. Participants in Ciclovía travelled at a wide range of speeds. I saw none of that – no friction, no conflicts. People went at the speed they wanted to, when they could, steering a careful path around people who went more slowly (which might include pedestrians and joggers navigating past slow cyclists). The only problem is that for those not participating who tried to cross the road, the speed and volume of non-motorised traffic could be a problem! There were plenty of signalised junctions but people’s preferred route is often directly across the road, wherever they happen to be.

What would happen if Seven Sisters Road in Woodberry Down, or the Finchley Road, were closed to motor vehicles on one side of the dual carriageway for a few hours every Sunday?

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.

Community severance glossary now online

Post by Dr Sadie Boniface

We have put together a glossary to explain some of the terms from our respective disciplines that we use to talk about community severance, and also included definitions of relevant organisations and policy instruments. Hopefully this will be useful as a jargon and acronym buster for people working in transport or public health. Here’s the link:

Community severance glossary (pdf)

We consider this a work in progress, so if there are things you think we should add, please do get in touch by email or Twitter.

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