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Kiw Show The UK How To Walk The Walk

2 September 2004


A Kiwi traffic engineer is showing the British how to make their vehicle-logged streets more pleasant places for people to be.

Steve Abley, a Christchurch-based Chartered Engineer, has co-written a new manual Designing Living Streets with Edward Hill who works for UK charity Living Streets, which champions streets and public spaces for people on foot.

The manual is being launched in London next week at a function in the House of Commons.

"Streets have lost their natural balance. We have been focusing far too much on building roads for cars to travel down with little thought given to other ways streets are used," says Steve Abley.

"This focus on vehicles has come at the expense of people who are now finding many streets unpleasant places to be. Streets are far more than just roads ­ they are also places where friends and neighbours meet, places for commerce, recreation and play."

Steve Abley says putting walkers' needs first results in a better environment for neighbourhoods.

"Increasing the numbers of walkers in an area results in people lingering to interact and play, it makes people feel safer and discourages crime and anti-social behaviour."

Designing Living Streets has been written for every professional whose work impacts on the walking environment: traffic and highways engineers, planners, developers, town centre managers, street cleaners, police officers, traffic wardens, utility companies, construction companies as well as elected councillors.

"This manual is important ­ until now there has been no one-stop guide to creating lively, walkable neighbourhoods. I have no doubt Designing Living Streets will be widely used," says Steve Abley.

The manual has been written for a UK audience, citing British legislation, however Steve Abley says the ideas and concepts within are applicable around the world.

Designing Living Streets pulls together the essential elements for ensuring a street is Œwalker friendly'; engineering requirements for street design and innovative ideas to help bring life to areas.

"A street can become a destination in its own right - instead of just a way of getting from A to B. However, a number of factors need to be right if people are to enjoy going there," says Steve Abley.

"The best streets allow people to walk where they want to without competing with vehicles or businesses for space. They allow people to cross the road safely and are free of crime, litter and other nuisances."

Steve Abley has been involved in the civil engineering industry for more than 15 years; he is the honorable technical consultant to Living Streets in the UK while living in New Zealand.

"The position is easy to maintain even though I am literally on the other side of the world, modern communication systems and the fact we are ahead of Britain time wise help the situation."

"I enjoy this work, it is well received in Britain where, particularly in London, many streets have become overrun with vehicles and the quality of the walking environment has lessened dramatically," says Steve Abley.

"Vehicles have been the main consideration in street design for far too long now, people have had enough and it's time for change. Designing Living Streets has the potential to become a backbone for that change, and I am pleased to be a part of it," concluded Steve Abley.


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