Push to Declutter England’s Streets


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

  • P

    My pet peeve is the sign near the Brooklyn Bridge warning that the NYPD has the area under video surveillance. Followed 100 feet later by- a sign warning that the NYPD has the area under video surveillance.

    Honestly, I’m not sure of the purpose of the first sign but the second’s only purpose is to add clutter to what is perhaps the city’s most photographed landmark.

    Hopefully the new commissioner will go throughout the city and remove every other sign.

  • Comentz

    There is information anxiety on city’s streets as we get bombarded with two to three signs, at times, conveying the same message. I had once heard that CDOT’s installation of signs were sometimes in response to requests from the NYPD as it makes it easier for the cops to write valid tickets by pointing to signs LOL.

    City Planning once dealt with a CDOT plan to install highway signs around Columbus Circle. We had to spell out to them why those signs would be unsuitable in the area and provided alternatives by showing examples from various European cities, and Chicago.

    One of Mayor Daley’s contributions to Chicago’s streetscape was the city’s hiring of a NYC firm to prepare design guidelines for signs in accordance to official standards. The result was not only better-designed signs but also fewer of them, which has resulted in lower maintenance costs.

  • John Varone

    Is this Jason Varone from Mass?



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