It's Living Streets' National Walking Month and to celebrate, I took a walk home from work.
As most following this blog will know, my usual commute is by cycle and at around 3.5 miles, it's a perfect distance - far enough to be able to zone out from the stresses of the day, but short enough to avoid getting too warm. Plus, the journey time reliability is way better than car or bus.
I chose to walk home because I wouldn't have any time constraints and it would just allow me to wander around, rather than sticking to my usual cycling route. As it turned out I walked 5.3 miles which was a bit more direct than it felt, but it turned out to be an interesting two-and-a-half hours.
In order to walk home, I had to get to work. I missed my usual direct bus which meant getting one which went all round the houses;
So, I'm talking about suburbia here and although I'm based in Outer London, the things that I saw can be found anywhere in the country.
I tweeted my progress and so most of the rest of this post will be those tweets - some will have more explanation (and they're screen grabs because Blogger hasn't got an embed tool). So, here we go;
This is not unusual, many town centres have dual carriageways skirting them with limited crossing opportunities and plenty of guardrail to keep people out of the road.
When you do get a surface-level crossing, it's never direct because that would remove motor traffic capacity.
The reason I knew this was working for a BT contractor in the mid-1990's. There is a whole different language out there!
It was just nice to see the clutter out of the way. Where things are placed kerbside, they will often have a half-a-metre set-back from the kerb (otherwise they'll be clipped) and so that's even less footway space. A great deal of footway clutter is there because of the need to regulate driving.
Rail crashes such as Great Heck and Oxshott showed the impacts of vehicles being driven (or crashed) onto railway lines. The type of temporary barrier show here (MASS) are designed to stop people driving onto the footway and for lorries, the shape redirects the line of travel back onto the road.
It's easy to sneer, but what we have here is a design which makes the street feel more like a canyon to those walking and with a lack of intervisibility between the occupants driving out and people walking along the footway.
minimum cycle parking standard for new developments. Here, Tesco pays lip service with unusable cycle parking while customers block a layby which is meant to be for loading.
TfL has mapped PTAL for the whole capital.
Pioneered by National Grid Gas (now Cadent), they have lorry mounted machines which can cut a core through the road surface and then vacuum the material underneath to get at a gas pipe for repairs. Afterwards, the material is replaced and the original core is used as a plug for the road surface which is sealed into place.
This system reduces noise, vibration and waste materials and is safer for operatives who don't need to physically dig around live services.
So there we have it, a snapshot of suburbia which I think you'd find pretty much anywhere. Walking should be the natural mode for short local trips, but in places dominated by car use and car parking, it always feels second best.