Will the ease of walking, cycling or pulling into a two-minute car park to grab a takeaway coffee boost a building’s value? We ask WSP’s experts.
We’ve learnt a lot about the value of the kerbside lately. Most of us now know just how easy – or hard – it is to swing past our favourite local haunt to grab tonight’s takeaway dinner. We know how much socially-distant space we’ll have when we walk to the supermarket, or how simple it is to cycle on our local streets.
Never has it been more important to “build flexibility into our streets,” says Graham Pointer, WSP’s technical executive for geography in Australia.
More Australians are walking and cycling than ever before. The City of Sydney’s latest active transport survey, as just one example, found 18 per cent of residents are riding more than once a month, up from seven per cent in 2017. A whopping 91 per cent of people want to walk more, and 53 per cent of those who are now cycling regularly have only embraced the activity in the last two years.
This is, at least in part, a response to COVID-19. “We’ve seen a resurgence of local places,” Pointer says. “We go to the local barista and supermarket more often – even if it’s just to bump into people we know. When you marry that up with more people interested in riding and walking, the question is how easy are we making it for people to access those local places.”
From static to dynamic space
The kerbside is not passive infrastructure, notes WSP’s regional director Dan Cunningham. It’s a place to park, walk, sit, shop, play and more. “The kerbside is a contested space. Everyone has a stake in what happens on the kerbside and ideas about what that space should do.”
WSP’s report in partnership with Uber, Future Ready Kerbside, argues that decades-old decisions about our kerbsides are stopping our streets from adapting to the immediate challenges created by COVID-19, nor the multiple complex challenges ahead.
But some of the kerbside solutions adopted by local councils to support businesses during COVID-19 are instructive.
Some councils have transformed parking spaces into ‘parklets’ to encourage outdoor dining. In Melbourne, more than 18,000 outdoor seats for cafés, restaurants and bars have popped up around the city with a direct benefit of $2.68 for every dollar spent by diners.
Pointer notes that other councils have successfully turned no stopping zones into two-minute drop-off and pick-up zones. Others have introduced digital appointment booking systems so people can check the availability of kerbside space before making the mad takeaway dash.
In the long term, dynamic management of the kerbside can make it easier for people to visit local shops or free up space to be allocated to seating, Cunningham notes.
“We have seen some councils change their parking condition really quickly to create pick up and drop off spots,” Pointer adds. “We need more of this. Parking conditions are generally too static; they don't always change as land use and the character of the neighbourhood changes. We need to adjust the conditions to suit the intensity of the space.”
Complexity demands consultation
Cunningham challenges more property owners to “focus on how their kerb is managed”. Cunningham likes Mirvac’s Waterloo Metro Quarter, which is being delivered in collaboration with John Holland, Sydney Metro and Woods Bagot, and which he says has walkability, cycling and accessibility front-and-centre.
The kerbside will only work harder in the future. Our growing and ageing population is creating greater demand for access. Technology is transforming the way we move and access services. The rise of online shopping brings with it more deliveries. New micro-mobility modes are emerging, like e-bikes, scooters and skateboards. Automated and shared vehicles bring additional complexities in how we manage and allocate the kerbside.
There are layers of complexity, which is why Cunningham says consultation is “fundamental”.
“Recommendation one in our report is engagement with the community. Don't tell the community what you’ll build; engage with the community to find out what's best suited to that community.”
“The more desirable we make places, the more opportunity we have to achieve meaningful outcomes for people,” Pointer adds. “And that's not only good for developers and the people using the spaces, but in enabling our communities to thrive.”