Chapter 2: Vision and objectives

Street Smarts: Report of the Commission on the Future of London’s Roads and Streets

Chapter 2: Vision and objectives

Based on the Commission’s remit and the developments, challenges and opportunities laid out in Chapter 1, the Commission has formulated a vision of what London should look like in 10-15 years’ time and a set of objectives for its roads and streets.

2.1           A vision for London

The Commission’s vision is for a London that is:

Loved by its citizens and admired across the world for the way it enables easy, pollution-free and affordable movement around the city, the vitality of its neighbourhoods and the quality of its public realm.

To make this vision a reality, we need a package of measures that achieve the following tactical objectives:

  • Reducing the impact of congestion.
  • Improving journey times.
  • Improving journey reliability.
  • Improving accessibility for diverse users.
  • Reducing air and noise pollution and
  • CO2 emissions.
  • Reducing private car ownership.
  • Encouraging active modes of travel.
  • Improving road safety.

In order to achieve these objectives, we need a wide mixture of policies at different levels of governance, which are grouped under seven headings and discussed in Chapter 3.

  • Managing competing demands for road space.
  • Managing traffic flow.
  • Managing the kerb space.
  • Freight and servicing.
  • Tackling air pollution.
  • Planning for good growth.
  • Maximising the benefits of new mobility services

The policy packages are mainly aimed at boroughs, Transport for London (TfL), the Mayor and national government, although we recognise that there is also a role the private sector, the third sector and civil society in realising our vision for London’s roads and streets. We also recognise that while our recommendations are focused on the design and management of London’s roads and streets, further enhancements to London’s rail services, as well as utilising the capacity of the river where appropriate, are needed to relieve pressure on the capitalís road network.

2.2          A vision for different parts of London

Different areas of London face distinct challenges and the way that the above policies are applied will need to be tailored to suit individual circumstances. Below, we briefly examine what the vision means for the following geographical areas:

  • Central London
    • Urban residential
    • Urban town centres and main roads
    • Suburban residential
    • Suburban town centres
    • Suburban main roads

We define Central London as the Central Activities Zone (CAZ). Household density is used as a threshold for urban vs suburban: Lower-Level Super Output Areas (LSOAs) with more than 40 households per hectare were classified as urban, less than 40 suburban, roughly mapping onto conventional understandings of inner and outer London. Main roads mapped are the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) and primary borough roads. Town centres are based on the London Plan definitions (International, Major and Metropolitan).

2.2.1        Central London

The Central Activities Zone (CAZ) is a centre for business, culture, entertainment, shopping and tourism, providing 1.7m jobs, and generating 10 per cent of the UK’s economic output 45 and 43 per cent of Londonís GVA. 46 The area has uniquely high public transport connectivity, with labour market specialisation in high-value service sectors. Taxis and PHVs currently comprise 32 per cent of all traffic in Central London. 47

Vision for Central London: A world-class city centre – clean, green and open for business

Central London retains its position as a global business, cultural and leisure destination through continued investment in high-capacity public transport networks. The quality of its public realm and the vibrancy of its streets helps cement London’s reputation as a world city.

Individuals – residents, commuters, visitors – move into and around the city centre principally on foot, by bicycle and public transport. People can breathe clean air, and feel safe and secure in vibrant and low-speed streets and spaces.

Businesses in the Central Activities Zone benefit from reliable supply chains and the cleanest last-mile delivery fleet of any world city.

2.2.2       Urban residential

Mostly across inner London, these are areas with higher household densities made up mainly of terraced housing and flats.

Vision for Urban London residential: Healthy urban living

The dense residential streets of Urban London have adapted to new technologies and mobility services. Residents enjoy an expanded green and welcoming public realm, with a good range of shops and other services and amenities in walking and cycling distance, excellent public transport connections and access to cars and taxis when required.

Private car ownership is reduced, with a reliance on car sharing and car clubs when a car is needed. Residential parking spaces have been converted into other uses, including wider pavements, green space and cycling infrastructure. The impact of through traffic on residents’ lives is minimised.

New development is high density and mixed use, and designed around walking, cycling, public transport and new mobility services.

2.2.3       Urban town centres and main roads

Urban London contains a number of Major and Metropolitan town centres, which tend to coincide with main roads and which are well served by public transport.

These areas share many of the same issues as central London: congestion, poor air quality and noise pollution, delays to bus services, road user conflicts, and competition for kerbside parking and loading.

Vision for Urban London main roads and town centres: Balanced movement and dynamic urban places

Limited road space is managed to balance the movement and place functions of urban London’s high streets. Walking, cycling and public transport are prioritised, and access for private cars and new mobility services is actively managed.

The role of high streets and centres on the periphery of central London continues to evolve and diversify. Businesses benefit from reliable supply chains through their proximity to the strategic road network and last-mile consolidation centres.

2.2.4       Suburban residential

Suburban housing in outer London is generally at lower density compared to inner and central London, often incorporating more off-street parking and private gardens. The majority of Londoners live in outer London, many of which in areas classified as suburban.

Such residential areas have relatively poor public transport connectivity, and this is reflected in more residents having cars, and relying on them for a high proportion of journeys. 48

A vision for Suburban London residential: Sustainable Suburbia

Suburban residential streets are clean, safe and secure. Outdoor spaces are available for use by residents of all ages and backgrounds. They foster a more active lifestyle for their residents, improving population health.

The suburbs have adapted to new technologies, with new mobility services improving access for all age groups and reducing car ownership, and residents have access to high-quality and clean public transport.

New suburban communities with a mix of housing, work and amenity space have been developed. Residents can walk or cycle to day-to-day services and amenities.

2.2.5       Suburban town centres

Suburban town centres are characterised by concentrated retail, leisure and service floorspace, with a large catchment area and good connections to road and public transport networks.

There is a conflict between the vehicle movement and place functions supported by town centres: they need to be easily accessible, but also attractive so people still want to spend time (and money) there. 49 But reducing car access, if managed in conjunction with other policies, can boost trade and economic vitality.

A vision for Suburban London town centres: Dynamic and adaptable hubs

While the role of high streets continues to evolve, Suburban London’s town centres are attractive, busy and prosperous.

Suburban town centres are designed around pedestrians, cyclists and public transport and can accommodate new mobility services. They are clean, attractive and well designed.

Active town centre partnerships help coordinate efficient and clean delivery and servicing activities.

2.2.6       Suburban main roads

There are a number of main roads in London’s suburban areas, operated by TfL and the boroughs, which have ‘low place, high movement’ functions 50 – these tend to be heavily geared towards motor vehicle travel. They are used throughout the day, not just in traditional peak periods. In some cases, the areas along these corridors are relatively well connected to public transport.

Congestion on these main roads is an increasing problem, and they are often pollution hotspots – research suggests they will face a big challenge to reduce emissions to EU limits. 51

A vision for Suburban London main roads: Highways for a new millennium

London’s strategic road network is managed in line with a clear road user hierarchy, and successful demand management guarantees reliable journeys for essential freight and servicing activities.

The adverse noise and pollution impacts of the strategic road network on surrounding communities are minimised through a combination of mitigation measures and demand management.

A comprehensive network of high quality walking and cycling links along and across the strategic network reduces severance effects and minimises local car trips on these roads.


  • 45 Greater London Authority (2016) Central Activities Zone: Supplementary Planning Guidance. Retrieved from https://
  • 46 Douglass, G. (2016) Work and life in the Central Activities Zone, northern part of the Isle of Dogs and their fringes. GLA Economics, Working Paper 68. Retrieved from https:// destination/Working%20Paper%2068.pdf
  • 47 Transport for London (2017) Travel in London Report 9. Table 6.6. Retrieved from
  • 48 Transport for London (2013) Roads Task Force Technical Note 14. Who travels by car in London and for what purpose? Retrieved from who-travels-by-car-in-london.pdf
  • 49 Accent for Transport for London (2013) Town Centres 2013. Retrieved from
  • 50 Transport for London (2016) London Cycling Design Standard, Chapter 4. Retrieved from
  • 51 Font, A. and Fuller, G.W. (2016) Did policies to abate atmospheric emissions from traffic have a positive effect in London? Environmental Pollution, 218, 463-474