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


Centre for London’s Commission on the Future of London’s Roads and Streets was set up to develop new thinking on what London could do to manage the conflicting pressures on the capital’s surface transport system and public realm, and how it can address the challenges it faces and make the most of its opportunities.

The Commission has:

Highlighted five important developments that represent challenges to and opportunities for London’s roads and streets…

Population growth: London’s population and its economy are continuing to expand, placing unprecedented demands on its finite system of roads and streets. At the same time, this growth could support a more extensive public transport service, stronger local economies and better local amenities, so lessening the need to travel.

Equity and deprivation: Despite its wealth London has high and long enduring levels of deprivation and on some measures at least, inequality is growing. It has a significant population with physical and sensory impairments including a growing population of older people who can find moving around the city more difficult. The design and management of London’s roads and streets shapes these patterns of equality, deprivation and opportunity. Poorer Londoners are more likely to fall victim to air pollution, road accidents and street crime, and to live and work in places with poor quality public realm and transport connectivity.

Quality of place: Roads and streets are not just transport corridors linking one part of the city to another. They also have a place function. People use them to do business, socialise, play, exercise, protest and celebrate. We have seen, over recent decades, a growing appreciation of the value of the ‘place’ dimensions of roads and streets. As London’s population and density grows, a high quality public realm and local quality of life will become increasingly important to the economic and social life of the city.

Health and wellbeing: London faces some major transport related public health challenges. Air pollution from vehicles has worsened in recent years and is doing real harm to Londoner’s health. The pervasive presence of cars and the neglect of the public realm have helped foster sedentary lifestyles, which have contributed to a growth in obesity and associated diseases. We still have an accident rate on our roads and streets that we would not tolerate in any other area of life. A move to a transport system that is less car-reliant and promotes more active travel would have large health benefits.

New technologies: Technological advances are changing the way that people travel, communicate, live and work. Smart personal devices are making it easier for Londoners to plan routes and order services. New vehicle technologies could make London’s roads safer, more efficient and less polluting. The rise of new mobility services could expand choice, free up valuable kerb space and enable greater ride-sharing. But these new technologies could also provoke greater vehicle use and worsen congestion and pollution.

… set out a vision for London in 10-15 years…

“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.”

… identified a range of tactical objectives to help achieve this vision…

These include: reducing the impact of congestion; improving journey times and reliability; improving accessibility for different users; reducing air and noise pollution and CO2 emissions; reducing private car ownership and encouraging shared and active modes of travel; improving road safety; and improving the public realm and quality of place.

… and developed seven packages of policies to meet the objectives:

  • Managing competing demands on road space by continuing to reallocate space to the most efficient, safest and least polluting users, and reforming and extending road pricing.
  • Managing traffic flow by reforming traffic signals and integrating app-based devices; introducing a London Movement Code, to better guide the interaction between different road users; and implementing traffic restriction measures where these align with broader objectives.
  • Managing kerb space by reducing space allocated to residential parking; and using dynamic pricing to better match supply and demand for non-residential kerb space and reduce searching traffic.
  • Managing freight and servicing by encouraging both on- and off-site consolidation; introducing greater incentives for cleaner and safer fleets and exploring new delivery models to improve freight efficiency on the strategic road network; and developing a better understanding of the contribution of servicing trips to Londonís traffic.
  • Tackling air pollution by introducing a cashback diesel scrappage scheme; providing more charging points for electric vehicles; and conducting more research into damaging particulate emissions from brakes and tyres ñ a source of pollution that needs more attention than it currently gets.
  • Planning for good growth by ensuring spatial planning and urban design policies apply a set of strategic principles to actively promote non-car-dependent and healthy lifestyles, in densifying areas, especially Opportunity Areas; and by boroughs, the Mayor and Transport for London adopting design-led road upkeep and improvement programmes, with strong leadership from design advocates.
  • Managing the arrival of new mobility services, by developing a smart ticketing and information platform; trialling a targeted Mobility as a Service (MaaS) subscription model; conducting a trial for a demand-responsive transport service; and developing appropriate regulation, including an automation strategy for London.