One year on from Engineers Declare – shifting the focus by Leah Stuart
One year on from ‘Engineers Declare’, there has been a huge focus on Active Travel from the Government. This includes the release of new cycle guidance (LTN 1/20) to provide complete, safe and legible routes. The amended Highway Code finally puts pedestrians first. Cities such as London, Glasgow and Manchester are starting to seriously invest in walking and cycling infrastructure and we are seeing significant modal shift.
On the flip side, disappointingly, we are still seeing pre-covid, pre-declaration schemes put forward. In my hometown of Huddersfield, clumsy highways widening on the A629 will see the loss of 126 mature trees. Expanded junction layouts grab land from gardens to create a scheme with hatched out ghost islands – dead space – in the middle of the road. Pedestrian crossings are longer and cycle facilities are simply painted lines on the road. They afford little protection or improvements to vulnerable travellers and no incentive or encouragement for people to want to use healthier methods of transport. This style of design has come out of the discredited ‘predict and provide’ transport planning model. This needs to be revisited in the more nuanced context of the systemic and cultural changes which need to occur, and which should be focus of every local authority in the country.
To even have a chance of meeting climate targets, it’s so important that every aspect of every development plays a part. Our work on York Housing, where we have received an admirably strong brief from the council to design socially and environmentally robust neighbourhoods, is a good example of this. We are looking at the design of buildings, the masterplan layout, the drainage and, crucially, how people will live there and how they will move around. Due to Covid-19 we know that more people are working from home. We know that more people are working flexibly and fitting their working lives around caring responsibilities: my own experience is that childcare and family routines have changed since March. Working differently can benefit families and communities, it is more inclusive and will have a significant impact on travel habits. As climate responsible employers and engineers, it’s time we embrace this opportunity to rethink, engineer and design differently. We’ve got a responsibility to come up with creative, climate resilient solutions which change the way we experience our towns and our lives and contribute positively to the future of our planet.