Local authorities all over the UK are working on projects to adapt and repurpose space to create a better walking and cycling environment.  Pressure is coming top down from the national and devolved transport bodies but locally many have already implemented projects or begun drafting legal orders.

Evidence is needed to assess the impact of change, refine schemes and ultimately determine what becomes permanent.

In our experience there’s always at least one change that results from an intervention that is unexpected, both by us and the designers.  Even when designers are very familiar with a location there are aspects of pedestrian, cyclist or driver behaviour that only become apparent when several days movement is tracked.

We’ve built up considerable experience monitoring experimental street trials like the one pictured below delivered by Sustrans Wales.  For some projects a baseline is important, for others it is key to quickly capture the change in the way a space is being used to allow for adjustment and improvement.

Streets Systems Survey Masts overlooking reallocation of space to pedestrians in Wales (Sustrans)

It’s possible to unintentionally distort movement patterns in a street if time isn’t taken to assess how space is used and monitor how this changes. We’ve already seen temporary barrier systems used to widen footways unintentionally removing the ability to cross the street.  Some interventions may also affect traffic speed.

Machine Vision has some great advantages in measuring level of service for pedestrians and tracking the impact of changes for all street users. Surveys can be specifically tailored to measure physical distancing, but in many cases measuring wider pedestrian comfort will be of greater long-term benefit.

In past projects we’ve measured the quality of pedestrian experience crossing streets looking at both time spent crossing (London Borough Hackney) and the rates at which motor traffic yields to pedestrians (Sustrans Newport).  These metrics alongside more traditional data such as traffic speed and turning movements can be delivered as one dataset using one methodology.

Pedestrian Desire Lines (Hackney)

Top tips:

  • If you have to initially use traffic management hardware, cones, signs, barriers etc.  Swap these out for greener features as soon as possible.  You’ll save money in the long run as the public are less likely to move them.
  • If at all possible monitor a couple of days before and a couple of days after implementation.  As a designer visit site yourself at peak periods but also look for patterns in the numbers.
  • Be prepared to change your scheme in particular if pedestrian movement isn’t what you anticipated.  Review schemes again once cafe and restaurant premises start to reopen as demand for public space will change.

Streets Systems have extensive experience supporting street trials.  If you’ve got any questions on how an intervention you’re considering could be monitored to allow improved design and ongoing improvement then get in touch.

Changes in traffic speed – small shifts can be important