Clamouring to Reclaim Sydney’s High Streets

I had the opportunity to attend the Committee for Sydney ‘s launch of their newest advocacy piece “ Reclaiming Sydney’s High Streets.”  

“High streets, sometimes referred to as main streets or shopping strips, are the beating heart of our neighbourhoods: where we meet friends, buy daily necessities, people-watch, or have a cup of coffee. They are a source of neighbourhood pride and identity. They are where we go to enjoy city life, without having to try too hard.”

The Committee for Sydney (CfS) is “an independent think tank and champion for the whole of Sydney, providing thought leadership beyond the electoral cycle“. The CfS advocates for the Sydney basin generally, and well beyond. 

The launch was attended by many from the traffic, roads and public space consulting design firms. Also, attendees from a few from different tiers of governments and from a variety of roles; and, at least one elected official, being from the city of Sydney.

I did not get the sense it had been advertised to the broader (more dynamic and diverse) public.

I hope this report will be released widely and have many more presentations made to a more public audience.

The report can be read online. It is an overview of what is achieved here in Sydney and what has been successful elsewhere in the world.   It has a quickly comprehensive array of visual images of good streets and a list of actions to achieve more of them. 

It is (to those not already initiated in the topic of better street design) eye opening and awareness building. It has the capacity to open mental images of what the world does have and is good; does not have but could have; and is possibly of great benefit for a suite of safety, aesthetics, social life and ecological life reasons. 

The additions the report could have had are as follows. 

  • a simplified chart of some road rules (i.e. how kerb return radii affects Level of Services or how turn bays ‘clear the intersection’ for cars but less safe to pedestrians) 
  • what needs to change regarding road designs to aim for (achieve?) pedestrian activation on some high streets
  • a series of street / road cross-sections to see clearly how a street is constructed and how one street is different from another in terms of space allocations by mode
  • cross sections to show room made (or not) for street furniture, street trees and setbacks (a photograph is good, but it is hard to disentangle and can give the wrong impressions depending on angles of shots)
  • a series on the legal and economic realities of the leasing and owning small business space on these high streets.

Yet, adding these parts will have made the report thicker, less appealing to some, too detailed, more open to controversy and possibly cause more (negative) discourse. 

I suggest we stay aware of any more events on this matter and remain open to collaboration with the CfS and any others. We need to remain focused on the issues, politics and design of streets regarding walkability as promoted by ourselves and others.   

Have you read it? What do you think?