The classic work of Donald Appleyard revisited

World Transport, Policy & Practice is always an interesting read: the current issue, however, excels in revisiting an important classic text: Donald Appleyard’s seminal work on Livable Streets and its application in the streets of Bristol.

Vol 17 kicks off in Professor John Whitelegg’s usual welcome mode: ““Sustainable transport in the UK continues its steady decline into the dustbin of a mobility obsessed governmental agenda.” But Vol 17.2 is a classic becasue of the return to Appleyard’s work, a classic remembered by those of us in the 90’s using  his work – literally then one of a kind – in 1981. For us in the RDRF this gives us an important way of addressing  the crucial question of measuring danger. Appleyard’s famous diagrams showing how motor traffic impedes pedestrian movement and community life are revisited here and shown to be relevant as the bases for study in contemporary Britain.

I leave the rest of this post to Professor Whitelegg’s introduction:

“This is an unusual and important issue of the journal. We are delighted to carry an article by Bruce Appleyard in the United Sates which is his introduction to a new edition of Livable Streets.

Livable Streets by Donald Appleyard was published by the University of California Press in 1981 and is one of the most important transport texts to be published in the last 40 years. It immediately identifies the street as an important social milieu and an asset of the greatest importance for  ociability, neighbourliness, friendliness and community life. Donald Appleyard made a huge leap forward leaving the tawdry world of transport economics, costbenefit analysis, highway construction and foolish notions about higher car based mobility feeding higher quality of life well behind. It  establishes a new paradigm and to the shame of most transport professionals and politicians making decisions on transport choices its message is diluted, misunderstood and ignored.

Donald Appleyard’s book opens with the sentence: “Nearly everyone in the world lives on a street”. He goes on to say that the book has two objectives:

§ To explore what it is like to live on streets with different kinds of traffic

 § To search for ways in which more streets can be made safe and livable

 These two objectives capture a great deal of the spirit and purpose of World Transport
Policy and Practice and the revised edition of Livable Streets will be warmly welcomed by everyone
who lives on a street and would like to see life made better by celebrating the quality of those
spaces rather than treating them as sewers for the rapid movement of lumps of metal. This article
is followed by a UK application of the Donald Appleyard methodology. Joshua Hart and Graham Parkhurst report on an original empirical application of “Livable Street” in Bristol and confirm the original findings about the negative impacts of traffic on sociability and conviviality and the need to assert a new transport paradigm that puts streets and human life at the top of the priority list and not somewhere below the level of a car driver speeding through a residential area to visit a gymnasium in order to keep fit. “