Engage • Inspire • Learn

Re-imagining public spaces after Covid-19

How public spaces will operate as lockdown restrictions are eased is key. Here, we look at how we can make the most of public spaces to safeguard community health going forward.

Thinking for the Future

As lockdown restrictions are further eased throughout Scotland, we can begin to look beyond the simple but nonetheless effective space reallocation measures that have already been implemented by local authorities, and instead consider how we can re-imagine the design of our public spaces so as to be more conducive with public health.

In this knowledge sharing session, Infrastructure Officer for Sustrans Dan Jeffs provides a comprehensive oversight of how reallocated spaces in towns and cities can be re-imagined through simple, affordable and inspiring measures.

Practical design installations can be not only visually appealing but also serve as positive reinforcements of where space is prioritised in the street. Essex, London (Avenue of Art Initiative)

The Case for Change

In all likelihood, there will be an extended period of time within which physical distancing guidelines are prescribed by UK government. This, however, needs to be compatible with people’s legitimate needs to move around in order for society to function.

Ensuring people are able to safely access their places of work, receive essential healthcare, exercise in parks, shop for groceries, and get their children to school are all crucial components of how we design temporary infrastructure and utilise space going forward.

In addition to this, and in a broader more holistic sense, how we move around our local areas has a big impact on our wellbeing. Walking, cycling or wheeling in fresh air is not only positive for physical health, but also helps people feel connected in times of increased isolation.

As such, adapting infrastructure to be more visually appealing and meaningful to communities is also an invaluable untaking.

“Streets need to be adapted to play a broader role in people’s general wellbeing, by offering a social, cultural and community experience”

Dan Jeffs, Infrastructure Officer, Sustrans
Art and infrastructure design can complement one another in a multitude of ways in order to effect positive behaviour change in our streets. London (Better Bankside)

How this can help

  • Making spaces function better – to assist physical distancing
  • Helping to moderate driver – safeguarding cyclists and pedestrian using reallocated carriageway space
  • Creating multi-sensory environments – to support people’s well-being by creating pleasant and attractive spaces for people to socialise and feel connected
  • Designs for everyone – to appeal to a broader range of user groups, defined by age, ability and purpose
  • Encouraging people to be/stay active – whether through walking, cycling, wheeling or playing
  • Building cultural/community connections – to communicate a shared sense of place and community 
  • Giving people a greater sense of ownership – likely to reduce upkeep and maintenance
  • Set out an exciting vision – to be inspired and inspire others
  • Gauging public response – to assess the climate for broader range of permanent interventions
  • Re-invigorating high streets and commercial areas – to safely allow people to shop, rest and socialise within these spaces

Note: the examples shown are in no way prescriptive and are for information only. Where specific products are shown in this document, this does not constitute Sustrans’ endorsement of that product.

Engage • Inspire • Learn SfP

Sustrans’ Spaces for People offer

Sustrans officers provide an overview of the support package available to partners through Spaces for People, from newly published design guidance to quick wins using Commonplace.

What we can do

Continuing with our online discussion and workshops sessions, this week Principal Engineer with Sustrans Paul Cronin guides you through the support we are able to offer local authorities and statutory bodies in relation to the Spaces for People programme.

As a quick overview, below are the key areas we are able to assist with:

  • Identification of network planning and engagement priorities
  • Design of concept and detailed general arrangements
  • Procurement and contract management to support implementation
  • Communication feedback and the interpretation of monitoring data

Different Sustrans officers delve into the specifics of what this support looks like. A brief summary of this is provided below.

Design guidance

Over the past few months, Sustrans have been working in collaboration with engineering and design consultancy Atkins in order to provide our partners with a comprehensive roadmap of temporary infrastructure designs that will support public health through Covid-19.

Sustrans Senior Urban Designer René Lindsay talks through the guidance as it relates to walking and wheeling, cycling routes, traffic management and signage options.

This graphic illustrates how different temporary interventions vary in suitability depending on their implementation period. Atkins.

You can keep up to date with the latest published guidance on our dedicated Design Guidance Showcase page.

Network planning and mapping in Edinburgh

Infrastructure Coordinators for Sustrans Alasdair Anderson and Angus Calder provide key insights into the provisions City of Edinburgh Council have set forward as part of their Spaces for People programme.

This focusses on improvements designed to enhanced the city’s existing bus network, providing physically distanced access to shopping streets and essential services, as well a widespread modal shift towards active travel through improved segregation on arterial routes.

To assist with this, Sustrans have mapped pavements widths throughout the city using ArcGIS and Python software in order to help determine the most effective locations for temporary interventions to be implemented.

“Edinburgh have taken a genuinely really ambitious, city-wide, strategic approach”.

Angus Calder, Infrastrucutre Coordinator, Sustrans

Commonplace tips

A number of local authorities are using Commonplace for their Spaces for People projects in order to gather public feedback on proposed interventions as well as encourage participation in designs.

East Renfrewshire Council received support from Sustrans in utilising Commonplace to maximise public participation in the design of temporary interventions.

Using the East Renfrewshire Commonplace as a case study, Community Engagement Officer for Sustrans Tremaine Bilham demonstrates how best to secure quick wins and maximise the opportunities available when using the engagement tool.

Union Street, Dundee

Using the plans to close Union Street in Dundee to traffic as an example, Infrastructure Officer for Sustrans Injoanna Lai outlines the potential temporary interventions that could be put in place in similar layouts to support public health and active travel.

Union Street in Dundee is set to be closed to traffic in order to allow greater physical distancing for pedestrians and cyclists. Paul Reid/Sustrans.

Research and monitoring support

Martin Laban, Evaluation Manager with our Research and Monitoring Unit (RMU), provides an overview of the types project monitoring support Sustrans are able to offer partners, and the data collection strategies employed therein.

In particular, take a look at how our Space to Move platform has provided a rich and live dataset on the temporary measures being implemented throughout the UK so far and how the public has responded to this.

Questions answered

  • What support is Sustrans able to offer local authorities through its Spaces for People programme?
  • What does our design guidance say? How can our design guidance help partners implement the most effective temporary interventions?
  • How can local authorities make the best use of Commonplace?
  • What support can our Research and Monitoring Unit offer.

Stay Updated

New knowledge sharing sessions such as this one will be published on our Showcase website each week.

Learn more about the Spaces for People programme on our dedicated Showcase page.

Why not keep up to date with the latest Spaces for People programme developments by signing up to our Spaces for People newsletter?

Note: the examples shown are in no way prescriptive and are for information only. Where specific products are shown in this document, this does not constitute Sustrans’ endorsement of that product.