People use and experience roads and streets in different ways for different purposes.
In the Movement and Place Framework, 'roads and streets' refers to the whole network of public spaces that connect people. This includes the State-owned road network and local council streets.
How people use roads and streets
Roads and streets enable people to move around and engage in everyday activities. These spaces need to serve people of all ages and abilities, who have many different needs.
We use two categories to consider how people use roads and streets:
- People using the street as a place.
- People using the street for movement.
- People who dwell.
- People who walk.
- People who cycle.
- People who use public transport.
- People who manage freight.
- People who drive private motor vehicles.
We often consider people using roads and streets according to their purpose: whether they are travelling along the street, or staying for some kind of activity.
People also readily change from one group to the other, such as residents boarding a bus, or walkers stopping at a shop.
People using the street as a place
Roads and streets are a substantial part of our network of public spaces, providing places where people live, work, and play. These everyday activities include people walking, standing, sitting, meeting in small or large groups, shopping, playing, working out, or simply enjoying the place. Everyone uses streets as places at some point, because these public spaces are the ‘front door’ to our neighbourhood, town, or city.
Residents, workers, visitors, and other people using roads and streets as a place need safety and comfort. This includes all kinds of people, such as the young and old, diverse communities, and disabled or disadvantaged groups. People often vary in when and how they use these places, and may have vulnerabilities or need additional assistance.
The more attractive a road or street is, the more time people will spend there. These places become more vibrant as more activities take place.
People using the street for movement
People use roads and streets as transport networks to get to where they want to go. This can be for a variety of purposes, such as commuting to work, school, or university; going shopping; accessing healthcare and other vital community services and facilities; visiting family and friends; and delivering goods.
Everyday movements include people walking, cycling, using public transport, and using private and commercial vehicles. People can often change their mode of travel throughout the day to suit their needs. For example, a parent might walk with their child to school, catch public transport to work, and then car-pool home afterwards.
Generally, these people seek a transport network that:
- moves people and goods safely, reliably, and efficiently
- connects places and is accessible
- supports productivity and growth
- is empowering, providing people with information and travel choices and enabling them to prioritise their needs
- contributes to creating successful places and sustainable communities.
We also consider users of roads and streets according to their mode of travel: how they move around.
Networks of roads and streets can be designed to cater for a range of modes in a collective way. For example, closing through-access to cars in some points in a network can create safer and quieter streets for people walking and riding a bicycle(as well as new pockets of green public space).
The modes that streets accommodate can change over time. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the importance of local streets for walking, riding a bicycle, and outdoor activities. Street spaces need to be adaptable to suit people’s changing needs.
People who dwell
Streets are public spaces that people share, spend time in, and enjoy. These places can support both planned and incidental activities such as catching public transport, shopping, outdoor dining, social and community gatherings, and play.
People will stay longer on streets that provide interesting things to see or do, shade from canopy trees, and protection from noise and pollution. Streets with slower-speed environments or car-free spaces are more attractive for people to spend time in. In turn, having more people around gives everyone an increased sense of safety.
People who walk
Walking is a universal mode of travel and recreation for people of all ages and abilities. Slower speed streets with continuous footpaths, pedestrian crossings, and canopy-tree shading create safer and more comfortable conditions for walking. This includes considering people using accessibility aids, such as wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
Street networks with shorter distances between attractions and more useful routes between local destinations make walking an attractive choice. Neighbourhoods that are more walkable are generally happier, healthier, more sustainable, and more highly valued.
Giving priority to walkability is also a matter of equity. Children, teenagers, elderly, and disadvantaged groups may depend on walking for all their independent mobility. Other groups, such as public transport users or people shopping, often also rely on walking to access a range of destinations along a single journey.
Walking is also highly space-efficient relative to other modes of transport. However, while more people walking is generally a good thing, high demand areas with insufficient space for walking can sometimes become uncomfortably overcrowded. Where overcrowding is an issue, upgrading walking infrastructure is a cost-effective way to create better mobility for significant numbers of people.
People who cycle
Riding a bicycle is a healthy, sustainable and affordable way for people to travel for work, social and recreational journeys. It is a highly accessible mode of travel, and can enable people to expand their range of mobility. A variety of bicycle designs cater to a diversity of people’s needs, including electric bikes and other mobility devices.
Riding a bicycle can also connect people with other modes of travel, such as riding to a train station to catch a train. Many destinations need to provide bicycle facilities to support and encourage bicycle trips. This includes sheltered and secure bicycle parking at train stations, urban centres and schools. Workplaces are increasingly offering end-of-trip facilities for cyclists, providing lockers, change rooms and showers to encourage their employees to ride to work. The benefits for cyclists include being more attentive and productive at school or work, while overall more people cycling means a healthier population.
Bicycle networks need to be safe, connected, direct, attractive, comfortable, and adaptable so people of all levels of ability can feel confident riding a bike. Many of the world’s most liveable cities have demonstrated that modest investments in the bicycle network (relative to the car network) can enable cycling to become a popular and highly efficient means of everyday mass mobility.
People who use public transport
Buses and light rail form the surface public transport networks that connect neighbourhoods, towns and cities. People use these modes to access work, schools and universities, town centres, services and facilities and recreation opportunities.
Public transport can provide an equitable spread of access throughout urban areas. Higher quality services, such as Bus Rapid Transit or light rail, can provide fast and frequent services for many people along dedicated transit corridors. With convenient interchanges between services, public transport can enable easy, car-free mobility for all kinds of journeys throughout the day and evening.
High levels of public transport use are supported by walking and cycling infrastructure, and by land-use strategies that locate more intense activities around transport nodes. On-demand services can support public transport accessibility in lower density areas.
People who manage freight
People employed to make deliveries of materials and products provide an important service for many industries. Freight includes both heavy freight (such as large trucks) and light freight (such as bicycle deliveries). Freight can change between modes in distribution centres.
Important considerations for freight are the reliability of movement along roads and avoiding delays. Heavy freight can involve noise and pollution, so can be prioritised along designated through-routes and outside peak times. Light (‘last-mile’) freight can be prioritised in urban areas to efficiently reduce the impact of deliveries.
People who travel in private motor vehicles
Private vehicles provide people with a comfortable means of travel to all kinds of destinations. They also support people with reduced mobility, people who need to carry essential items such as trade tools and machinery, and areas with insufficient mobility alternatives.
Cars can be used for single or combined trips, and passenger pick-ups and drop-offs. In many areas, cars are a convenient, common, and often preferred means of travel. However, car use can be expensive, with servicing, registration, fuel, tolls, and parking costs. Private car use also has a significant impact on environmental sustainability. This can be addressed by shifting to electric vehicles and to other more sustainable modes of transport.
Widespread car use results in widespread car congestion. Compared with other modes, private car use is spatially inefficient, whether cars are moving or parked, and the cost of building car parking throughout urban areas is high. While promoting more shared or off-peak trips can reduce some peak congestion, encouraging people to shift to more sustainable modes of mobility will have a more significant positive impact on individuals as well as the broader community and economy.