Urban designers strive to create successful places for people’s enjoyment and delight. Successful places that are active, inviting, lively and attractive. We invest countless hours designing, and redesigning spaces within places for people walking, people cycling, people resting and people exercising. These parks, plazas, footpaths and cycleways are a perfect balance of carefully conceived form and effective function.
From time to time, these places experience change, sometimes well planned and designed and at other times less so. The installation of new services, the repair or replacement of underground infrastructure and new connections to provide residents with phone, TV, internet, gas, electricity and water often leave scars in our beloved places. Once the workers, machinery, traffic controllers, temporary barriers and bright cones have left, the impact becomes all too evident. The once carefully thought through and impeccably laid pavement is now visibly scarred, replaced by poorly laid asphalt waiting to cool.
Given the visual aspect and uneven ﬁnish of these scars, one could think this new material is temporary, Days, months and even years go by, and the temporary looking job has become permanent. A shock to the eye at the beginning, it starts to blend in with similar-looking interventions up and down our footpaths, cycleways, parks and plazas. Eventually, there are so many scars that the original well-laid pavement starts to feel like a foreign, uninvited, unwanted material.
These poorly laid scars don’t only look unappealing, affecting the aesthetics of a place, they also present a risk to all users, especially for the elderly and those with reduced mobility. These interventions also commonly appear on cycleways, often overnight, creating a critical risk as people cycling at speed may lose control and risk serious injury. People driving cars are less likely to be impacted in the same way bicycles, but people cycling also use roads and therefore the need for carefully designed surface treatment on roads is equally important.
The repairs and interventions that create these scars are necessary to sustain the urban lifestyle and services we all enjoy, however, all stakeholders must work together to ensure they are carried out in a sympathetic manner and preserve the aesthetics and physical integrity of a place and the safety of the people using it.
By Rod Sepsot