Domestic roads, the domain of the landscape architect

Martin Willitts 20 Oct 2022

The UK has a plethora of road types from motorway to path. The emphasis has been on the motorised vehicle but, fortunately, by byways and paths not targeted for them still exist as a category. The rise in interest in active travel makes these all the more relevant. Even more relevant is the retaking of the road outside where we live as a place rather than a transit mechanism. By demarcating the domestic roads, for both residential and other places to be, we can see the relevance of moving design from the transport engineer to the landscape architect.

The language we use to describe travel, transport and place strongly influence how we perceive them and changes to them [Te Brömmelstroet, M. 2020]. Furthermore, the impact lasts decades. The use of “road” rather than “street” is splitting hairs for some and is a loss to our language of distinguishing between places for travel and places for stillness. Immotility as a way to highlight localism and and slowness as beneficial is similarly missing from current discussion [Ferreira et al 2017]; the notion that stillness can be considered when looking at road infrastructure is not widely in use yet and is an encouragingly useful additional angle.

The recent history of the car and motorised vehicles [Te Brömmelstroet, M. 2020 quoting from Norton, P. 2011] informs us how car dominance has only been in the last 100 years. This showed the strength and power of that period of change on the language we use. This highlights how much language can be used to revisit the existing perceptions of roads, in particular the roads where we would like to be still.

A sophistication in measuring the value of journeys is required. A calculated reduction in bus journey times is insufficient and misleading in recommending a set of changes to a road. They journey itself being enjoyable for its own sake being one example [Cresswell T. 2009]. A way of determining the value of the journey to an individual and the level of enjoyment can be through assessing utility of the journey by looking at flow [Te Brömmelstroet et al., 2021]; there are techniques already available for to enable this increased sophistication.

It is well established that a space can carry many more people travelling on foot or by bicycle than by car or bus. The interactions between people in the bus or negotiating each other at junctions can be considered a good thing and not something requiring a managed solution to minimise challenges. [Te Brömmelstroet et al., 2017]

At the time of writing, Oct 2022, the City of Cambridge has a consultation running on the introduction of a Sustainable Travel Zone [GCP 2022]. The language gives away the missed opportunity, although this is not irretrievable. The term should be “Sustainable Living Zone” and be led by the City Council not the the body charged with implementing transport changes.

An important element underpinning the challenges is the variety of road types and a lack of modularisation of the issues faced. Furthermore, the Highway Agency’s purview over the full set of roads constrains and challenges how certain roads can be designed radically differently. Separating the domestic roads from link and trunk roads arises naturally when considering utility of the space. This is in terms of movement, representation and practice [Cresswell T. 2009] not just the more obvious distinction between usual stillness or mobility. Much like we have cars parked on domestic roads, even on the pavement, we have let the dominance of motorised vehicles and their language creep up and overwhelm us. This makes re-imagining the domestic road all the harder. Encouragingly, the current shift towards active travel suggests this might be becoming less of a challenge.

The questions that arise are dwarfed by the question of how to make a shift for oversight and design of domestic roads from Highway Authority to landscape designers for the City Council. For this there is relevant research [Te Brömmelstroet et al., 2022] and this could be examined for ways to apply the notions in Cambridge today.

—————— [Cresswell T. 2009] Tim Creswell Towards a politics of mobility Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 2010 vol 28 p17-31

[Ferreira et al 2017] Antonio Ferreira, Luca Bertolini & Petter Næss Immotility as resilience? A key consideration for transport policy and research, Applied Mobilities, 2:1, 16-31, DOI: 10.1080/23800127.2017.1283121

[GCP 2022] Sustainable Travel Zone Discussion Note Greater Cambridge Partnership 6026552389f58fba5784262cced43bcaa55c2f61/original/1665496393/ e99cc1fe3e93c2ec15fd7050f3dea089_Sustainable_Travel_Zone_boundary_%E2%80%93_Technic al_Note.pdf

[Norton, P. 2011] Fighting Traffic: the dawn of the motor age in the American city. Cambridge: MIT Press

[Te Brömmelstroet et al., 2017] te Brömmelstroet, M., Nikolaeva, A., Glaser, M., Nicolaisen, M. S., & Chan, C. (2017). Travelling together alone and alone together: mobility and potential exposure to diversity. Applied Mobilities, 2(1), 1–15.

[Te Brömmelstroet, M. 2020] Mobility Language Matters De Correspondent Amsterdam vn72e76AhXoTEEAHUDsDP4QFnoECB0QAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fdecorrespondent.fetchapp. com%2Ffiles%2F3471a7d9&usg=AOvVaw3Tsksgqy1Usyme4shg1Bvy

[Te Brömmelstroet et al., 2021] Marco Te Brömmelstroet, Anna Nikolaeva, Catarina Cadima, Ersilia Verlinghieri, Antonio Ferreira, Milos Mladenović, Dimitris Milakis, Joao de Abreu e Silva & Enrica Papa Have A Good Trip! Expanding Our Concepts Of The Quality Of Everyday Travelling With Flow Theory Applied Mobilities DOI: 10.1080/23800127.2021.1912947 (

[Te Brömmelstroet et al., 2022] Marco te Brömmelstroet, Miloš N. Mladenović, Anna Nikolaeva, İdil Gaziulusoy, Antonio Ferreira, Kaisa Schmidt-Thomé, Roope Ritvos, Silvia Sousa, Bernadette Bergsma, Identifying, nurturing and empowering alternative mobility narratives, Journal of Urban Mobility, Volume 2, 2022, 100031, ISSN 2667-0917, (