July 20, 2010

Unmaking Urban Mistakes

John Tolva has written an excellent essay (it's a bit long to be a blog post really) entitled Lessons from unmaking urban mistakes. In it he looks at how the inner-city highways have improved traffic throughput in the city, but at the expense of the human-scale interactions, and also looks at how the highways affect the surrounding architecture.

It's a difficult problem to solve. When I travel around the city by car then it feels like it's quicker on the trunk roads, although given the number of sets of traffic lights, maybe it isn't. Here in Liverpool the docks and the Pier Head feel cut off from the rest of the city centre by the six lanes of traffic on the Strand. The problem is even more pronounced when you get to the north edge of the city centre and the inner-city motorway that is Islington. I think the resurgence of city-centre living would have bled out to the north much more if there wasn't this huge gulf of inhospitable tarmac in the way.

Is the answer better public transport, maybe an underground system to provide capacity without taking up surface space? Or to separate the cars and pedestrians? If the latter then we'd need a better solution than the desolate pedestrian subways and underpasses that resulted when we tried that with the new towns in the 1960s and 1970s.

Maybe block-level one-way systems help - basically separating the carriageways of the highway to adjacent streets so that there are fewer lanes of traffic for pedestrians to navigate at any one time. That seems to work reasonably well with Dale Street and Chapel Street in Liverpool (although these days Chapel Street has reverted to two-way traffic).

As you can see, I don't have any answers to these questions yet. It's just something I ponder about in some of my thinking on how to improve Liverpool. And the question is made all the trickier because the solution needs to work with the existing fabric of the city - demolishing and rebuilding swathes of the city are only likely to generate a different set of unintended consequences.


Posted by Adrian at July 20, 2010 11:34 AM | TrackBack

This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

You can receive updates whenever a new post is written by subscribing to the recent posts RSS feed or

Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Note: I'm running the MT-Keystrokes plugin to filter out spam comments, which unfortunately means you have to have Javascript turned on to be able to comment.