Liveable streets and social inclusion

Daniel Sauter & Marco Huettenmoser

Go to article

Sauter, D. & Huettenmoser, M. (1). Liveable streets and social inclusion. URBAN DESIGN International, 13(2), 67–79.

Liveable Streets , Public Realm , Social Integration , Traffic Planning , Traffic-calming , Urban Neighbourhoods

This article discusses how street design and traffic affect social relations in urban neighbourhoods. Three street types in the city of Basel, Switzerland were studied: a 50km/h street, a 30km/h street and three encounter zones (20km/h and pedestrian priority, also known as woonerven or home zones). The effects were measured in terms of neighbourhood interactions, use of public space and the personal feelings of belonging of residents. The study, standing in the tradition of Donald Appleyard’s liveable street research in the early 1970s, was carried out in the framework programme ‘Social Inclusion and Social Exclusion’ financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation and by the Swiss Federal Office of Sports. The results show that urban neighbourhoods are (still) very lively social places, despite their often lamented anonymity and individualisation. Streets with slow moving traffic, limited space for parking and good environmental qualities offer a large potential for personal development, contentment and social integration. Neighbourhood contacts in such streets are more frequent and more intensive and the separation effects are substantially smaller. Liveable streets in urban neighbourhoods can be great places for public life and social inclusion.

Main finding
The study finds that residents in the encounter zones value the environmental qualities (tranquillity and beauty) in their streets and perceive that their street fosters the personal development and freedom of children and older people, especially due to lower speed limits which results in substantially higher perception of traffic safety in the neighbourhood. However the study also finds that social diversity and multicultural life in the street is not linked to street type.

Description of method used in the article
Five streets or street sections - a 50 km/h street, a 30 km/h street and three encounter zones (20 km/h and pedestrian priority, also known as woonerven or home zones) - in comparable socially mixed residential neighbourhoods in the city of Basel, Switzerland were investigated: (1) assessment of the environmental qualities by the researchers; (2) written survey of residents; (3) observations of the physical and social activities in the streets, with emphasis on the children; and (4) personal interviews with residents, activists and city officials. Analysis model of determinants (street structure and social structure as independent variables) on the perception of social integration according to three dimensions (structural, interactive and subjective dimensions) as dependent variables.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Case Study
Physical types
Geographic locations