Manual for Streets update to embed 'sociable and local' culture shift

The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) and WSP have given Traffex delegates an update on the government-sponsored refresh of the seminal Manual for Streets guidance for local street design.

Entering its critical penultimate stage, where the content detail is nailed down, the new document is on target for a spring 2022 publication and is set to provide a gold standard for local design encompassing a culture shift towards more ‘people friendly’ streets.

WSP won the contract from CIHT to lead the update, which will bring together the first two Manual for Streets publications from 2007 and 2010 into a single document of refreshed guidance.

Technical director Glenn Higgs outlined at Traffex the framework of the guidance, detailing some of the ways it will be different from the last update – Manual for Streets 2 released in 2010.

‘The aim of the guidance is to have a really fresh and forward-looking approach, which reflects some of the changes in policy and society, and a golden thread running through the document is a people-centric approach putting people and place first,’ he said.

Since 2010 there has been a ‘change in attitude to shared space and inclusivity, new modes of mobility, active travel has risen up the agenda: we need to understand how attitudes to travel and staying local have changed in relation to COVID and if they will stick’.

There have also been key legislative changes such as the Equalities Act 2010, Mr Higgs highlighted, which delivered a transformation in how transport professionals understand accessibility and their duty to provide reasonable adjustments to prevent anyone experiencing disadvantages.

Manual for Streets is the design guide for all roads below the strategic road network, which is built around a separate document – the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB), also recently updated by Highways England.

Mr Higgs said: ‘We also need to understand when, where and how to use Manual for Streets versus other guidance. A good example is DMRB, which all too often is used inappropriately and leads to over-engineered roads that prioritise motor vehicles.

‘We also need to understand how the document gets a balance between talking about principles and detail. The practitioner needs to understand how to arrive at good design as well as what it looks like.’

The main content

The guidance content is set to have three main sections. The first provides ‘overarching context and policy’ setting out the wider ‘guidance ecosystem’ and the role of Manual for Streets within that.

The second section provides a design framework. Mr Higgs said: ‘This is how to achieve good streets,’ adding that it identified metrics, which would help professionals define outcomes and street types and ensure they are adapted to the desired movement and place design.

WSP and CIHT defined 10 initial outcome areas:

  1. Inclusive and equitable
  2. Fit for all ages
  3. Adaptive
  4. Healthy and active
  5. Safe
  6. Resilient
  7. Sociable
  8. Attractive and interesting
  9. Productive
  10. Efficient

Mr Higgs pointed out that some of these metrics reflected the new culture since 2010 for instance ‘making streets sociable so people feel included, I don’t think that is an indicator you would have seen 10 years ago’.

The document is also set to outline five functions of streets: place, movement, parking, access and drainage, utilities and lighting. It will also employ the street types hierarchy taken from the National Model Design Code published earlier this year.

Finally, the guidance will provide design details including content on identifying speed management and traffic restriction approaches, including advice on low traffic neighbourhoods, designing for cycling and what to include from the latest cycling guidance LTN 1/20, and how to identify appropriate road widths.

How to accommodate micro mobility is also likely to feature as well as approaches for introducing street trees – now encouraged for all new streets under the National Planning Policy Framework.

The finalisation of the process will involve further engagement with MHCLG, Homes England and the devolved nations.

Andrew Hugill, director of policy and technical affairs at CIHT, said it is ‘currently talking with the DfT to other nations in UK on use of manual for streets’.

He added that the refresh was needed in part because uptake of the previous guidance ‘is not as high as we would like and poor development is still happening across the country’.

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