Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Cities / Public health

Most London pavements too narrow to support social distancing guidelines

By Andrew Sansom 04 May 2020 0

Nearly two-thirds of pavements in London are not wide enough for people to observe the Government’s advice to stay two metres apart, according to new analysis.

A new research group, called _Streets and involving researchers from the UCL Bartlett, have analysed every street in Greater London and found that only 36 per cent of pavements are at least three metres wide – the minimum requirement for members of the public to follow current social distancing rules.

Of all London boroughs, the City of London has the highest percentage (51 per cent) of streets that meet the minimum requirement of non-road space, while Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, and Newham and Haringey all have the lowest percentages (between 26 and 28 per cent).

Using their findings, _Streets have created a map that shows all the streets in London that total six metres across or more of non-road space. 

Dr Ashley Dhanani, _Streets researcher and research associate at the Bartlett School of Architecture’s Space Syntax Laboratory, said: “While some may opt to walk in the road [given the lack of traffic during this time], this is not possible for people with pushchairs or with mobility impairments. Research shows that there is an urgent need to reallocate street space in London so everyone can use streets safely.”

His research colleague Nicolas Palominos, a PhD candidate at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), said: “Using new geo-computational techniques, we can study in detail the critical design parameters for the reorganisation of street space and inform planning decisions like pavement-widening, car-free zones and cycleways, which will effectively address the demands of social distancing.”

A collaboration between UCL researchers, Healthy Streets and Tranquil City, _Streets research received funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Bartlett Innovation Fund. Researchers used data from the Ordnance Survey, collected in a working paper analysing street spaces in Greater London. 

The Space Syntax Laboratory is an interdisciplinary research and teaching unit that has been around since the 1970s. Space Syntax research studies the effects of spatial design on aspects of social, organisational and economic performance of buildings and urban areas, and it has contributed to an understanding of the relationship between spatial design and the use of space as well as longer term social outcomes.

CASA is an interdisciplinary research institute which explores the science of cities. Located within the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment, the centre seeks to examine and offer solutions to the problems of resource efficiency and effective planning and governance shared by all cities.

The map can be viewed and downloaded here