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The British government's advisor on architecture, urban design and public space just launched a campaign to "declutter" England's streets of thousands of signs and barriers, arguing that the rampant signage may actually result in more perilous streets for pedestrians. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) urged local councils and planners to adopt a radical new approach to street design, taking into account "the needs of pedestrians as well as motorists." The Guardian reports:

In a speech to the English Historic Towns Forum, Sarah Gaventa, director of CABE Space, questioned whether the maze of barriers, signage and pedestrian management systems, installed to keep traffic and pedestrians apart, actually made people safer.

"The proliferation of signs, barriers and crossings could be making our streets more dangerous," Ms Gaventa said. "We're not suggesting that removing them all is the answer. But for too long we've been designing streets for traffic; they've become noisy, congested and cluttered, with people herded behind traffic barriers, ostensibly for their own benefit. Solving the problems of speeding and pedestrian safety doesn't mean more and more signs telling you to slow down and more protective barriers, it requires clever design thinking."

Systems installed as a knee-jerk reaction to accidents and perceived risk could result in increased traffic speed and create an illusion of predictability and complacency and an increase in accident rates, she added. Ms Gaventa spoke as CABE published a report entitled This way to better streets: lessons from ten successful streets.

Photo: stpiduko/Flickr

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