Increasing the vitality, safety and economic potential of our cities
Several studies and theories have shown that the liveability and safety of an area is largely determined by the quality of the planning and design of its public space. A thoughtful planning of the street network, good design of public space and an attractive quality of the buildings and public functions contribute significantly to the functioning of an area. Deteriorated neighbourhoods are often originally well designed but have lost their initially favorable qualities due to later adjustments and interventions. In these cases, large interventions are needed especially on the level of the urban planning. For this, it is important to make a thorough analysis of the existing situation and to identify both the weak and strong points. The planning and design of the public space must facilitate the desired use and the future position and function(s) of the area.
The qualities of public spaces not only affect the safety but also largely determine the liveability and vitality of an area. We know from research, it are mainly the spatial characteristics that determine whether a region has the right conditions for livability. The extent to which an area or street owns these properties, can be mathematically calculated and quantified. This applies in particular to the spatial conditions for vital street life (how lively are the streets and what are the chances for encounter) and economic activity (what is the spatial potential for successful retail operations). Streets with a vital street life are experienced as more pleasant by visitors and residents, especially when these streets also house various local businesses. A vital street life leads to commitment; involvement of residents and businesses with their street, their neighborhood and their city. This involvement is also noted by visitors from outside. Residents and visitors feel themselves more comfortable and safe. There are more social eyes on the street, there is a more balanced mix of public (residents / visitors / passers-by, but also young / old) and people are more likely to intervene when something threatens to go wrong. This active informal social control is not only present, it is also ‘felt’ by malicious persons who are therefore less likely to cross the line.