Creating a public space network

A network of attractive public spaces and routes will connect places together and support walking and cycling.

Copyright CABE and Morag Myerscough

The role public spaces play in supporting walking and cycling is significant. To maximise this potential, the public space network and the walking and cycling network should be considered as one and the same thing.

The public realm network of a city should be seen as a seamless series of streets, green corridors, green spaces and urban squares. A dense network of routes through an urban area supports walking and cycling as a feasible alternative to other transport modes. The complete network should support walking and cycling on a variety of street and non-street based routes.

The quality of the public realm will have a major impact on how well used they are. Routes should be safe, attractive, convenient and of high quality design. They should be co-ordinated through a city wide strategy that provides for legible but diverse opportunities.

Planning, designing and managing the public space network to achieve an attractive web of routes and spaces is important. Some key interventions will ensure this is realised:

  • Designing streets to allow for safe and attractive pedestrian and cycle use
  • Planning and designing non-street based routes as part of the network as an attractive alternative offer
  • Planning and designing public spaces such as civic squares and urban parks to provide resting and meeting points along the network of public spaces and at key nodes within this network.

Connected networks provide good walking and cycling access and cater for play, social spaces and natural habitats at the same time and so create a more efficient use of land.

A sub-regional approach to the public space network is a useful starting point and can ensure the integration of transport, green infrastructure and public space objectives.

Such frameworks and strategies form an important part of the evidence base for Local Development Frameworks.

East London Green Grid

Photo by the Greater London Authority

East London Green Grid

In East London, the Green Grid framework aims to create a network of interlinked, multi-functional and high quality open spaces that connect with town centres, public transport nodes, the countryside in the urban fringe, the Thames and major employment and residential areas. The Green Grid network is being planned around a number of long distance paths that provide routes for walking and cycling.

The Green Grid envisages the creation of new public spaces, the enhancement of existing open spaces and improvements to the links in between. The Green Grid has been adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document to aid its delivery.

Read more about East London Green Grid.


Priority: maximise the potential of public space
Tags: public space, cities and towns, neighbourhoods

CABE and Urban Practitioners
with the cities of Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield