Density Done Well And Walkable Communities Masterclass

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Brent Toderian, an internationally acclaimed town planner, urbanist and champion of design for active communities delivered a detailed masterclass for planning and architecture professionals on 24th October.

The Masterclass aimed to raise awareness of how crucial aspects of planning and the design of our environment can lead to healthier communities. The event discussed walkability in the context of multi-modal planning, recognising the role of cycling, public transport, delivery vehicles and cars in our transport system. 

The event was chaired by Craig McLaren, Director of RTPI Scotland. Craig brought a local perspective to the walkability and multi-modal topics. He reinforced the valuable and crucial role that our built environment planners and professionals have in influencing the health and happiness of our population and prosperity of Scotland through their work. John Howie of NHS Health Scotland presented an overview of Scotland's award winning Place Standard Tool with powerful examples of how it can be used to inform place making.

Brent Toderian is a nationally and internationally respected practitioner in advanced urbanism, city planning and urban design. He is the former chief planner for Vancouver Canada and now consults for cities and progressive developers across the globe. Brent gave a fascinating presentation covering the important aspects of urban planning citing experience and research from around the world. Key points and conclusions from his Masterclass included:

Creating better places for people

If we want to make our towns and cities better for people, we must stop designing places with personal car transit as the dominant mode of travel. Cities which encourage walking are healthier places to be. Citizens are more connected, and local businesses thrive. Brent Toderian stated that multi-modal cities benefit everyone, including drivers. 

Density Done Well

Brent highlighted provision of amenities and well-designed population density as key components of this concept. Amenities support public life and the denser the population gets, the more such amenities are needed. If we design areas with parks, people places, libraries, childcare, schools and cultural civic amenities within close proximity of the population, we will be creating attractive, appealing, walkable and successful places. Well designed density brings the population for commercial amenities like cafes, shops and markets. Again, this brings benefits as areas are attractive, liveable and economically vibrant. 

Prioritisation of walking, cycling and public transport

To achieve a genuine change in the way that people travel and increase walking cycling and public transport this must be designed into our environment. To ensure this is achieved design and investment decisions must prioritise these modes of travel, as seen here in Vancouver’s prioritisation diagram.

Making walking, cycling and public transport delightful

Thinking about our streets not just as places to go though, but places to spend time is important. Brent emphasised that streets must be designed to be attractive. In particular, emphasising the negative impact of building design that has large blank edifices on pedestrian streets – not an inviting or interesting environment at eye level.

He championed creation of ‘sticky’ streets – places where people want to spend time. Sticky streets increase walkability, leading to healthier population, increased social interaction and economic benefits for business. Measures such as pavement cafes and attractive shop fronts can make a difference.

Brent highlighted a number of inspiring and quick changes that can improve streets ‘stickiness’ such as parklets, art, planting, popup cafes and shops and pavement cafes. All amenities which invite people to enjoy and linger on a street. 

Changing cultures and championing multi-modal travel

Brent’s presentation discussed how better coordination and closer relationships between departments such as planning, health and transport within planning teams and councils are key aspects to successful multi-modal planning. Changing working cultures and breaking down departmental silos so that diverse stakeholders views are valued from a project’s inception is essential. 

Brent willed attendees to use the powerful health and social statistics which back up active travel investment. He urged people to make their voices heard with persuasive, engaging messages to raise awareness of the benefits of walkability and multi-modal travel and how it is achieved.

Brent finished by asking the question:

Are you ready to reinvent your city?

A selection of Brent Toderian's slides are available to view below

Place Standard

John Howie of NHS Health Scotland presented an overview of Scotland's award winning Place Standard Tool. The tool has been used to engage varied stakeholders in the place making process. Examples of how the tool can be used in different contexts was provided. The Place Standard tool presentation complemented Brent Toderian's key points around ensuring a move away from siloed thinking and hearing the views of all stakeholders as part of place making and planning processes. Slides from John Howie's presentation can be viewed below and you can learn more about the Place Standard tool online.

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