9 Children’s play landscape design videos FOLAR

Here are the other six videos from the 2019 FOLAR Symposium on Children’s Play. To find the full set of videos on Youtube please visit the Playlist for Children’s Play.

Dr Luca Csepely-Knorr & Dr Amber Roberts, Manchester Metropolitan University. Michael Brown & his work with children’s play Luca and Amber take a most-welcome look at the great children’s playgrounds designed by Michael Brown in the 1960s and 1970s

Nicola Butler Chair of Trustees, Play England Adventure Playgrounds:past and present. Nicola re-makes the case for adventure play and remembers the vital contribution of pioneer ILA/LI member Lady Allen of Hurtwood.

Helen Woolley, BSc BPhil CMLI, Reader in Landscape Architecture and Society, University of Sheffield, Playing the streets: past, present and future. Helen reviews the work of Iona and Peter Opie. They were folklorists and applied modern techniques to children’s literature and childrens’ games.

Andrée Davies, DW Landscape Architects  Nature play & inclusive design. Andrée explains the Davies White to the design process and detailed design of children’s play areas.

Jennette Emery-Wallis LUC  Natural, active childhoods. Jennette give an inspiring account of two great children’s play areas: the Dianna Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens and the Tumbling Bay Playground (beside the Timber Lodge in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Posted in landscape architecture Tagged with: , ,

FOLAR Symposium on Children’s Play

FOLAR Childrens Play Symposium

Congratulations to all involved with an excellent FOLAR symposium on children’s play.There are 3 videos embedded in this blog post and the other 6 can be found on another blog post on chidren’s play.

Particular thanks to Merrick Denton-Thompson who was not able to be there but who influenced many of the presentations through his work in establishing the Learning through Landscapes Trust (LTL). The Trust has done much, and is still doing much, to make life better for children. As the homepage of its website explains ‘We help children and young people to connect with nature, become more active, learn outdoors and have fun’. Three of the presentations are in this blog post and the other five will be published soon. The symposium is a great illustration of how the landscape architecture profession should operate:

  1. landscape architecture needs a firm theoretical base in the of principles design and planning (characterised by Vitruvius as Commodity, Firmness and Delight)
  2. the profession needs a stream of specialist policy initiatives to explain how the design of good landscapes contribute to societal goals
  3. the profession needs specialist landscape practices to give the ideas reality

After 2 years as President of the Landscape Institute Merrick, very appropriately, handed over to current LI President Adam White. Adam introduced the symposium with a very attractive exposition of how LTL principles can work in practice.  Davies White is a landscape practice that specialises ‘in children’s playful landscapes and gardens’.

My contribution was a short reading from page 97 of Patrick Geddes 1915 book Cities in Evolution (Chapter 5 ‘Ways to the Neotechnic City’). As well as being the leading planning theorist of the 20th century,  Geddes was the first European to use the term ‘landscape architect’ in its modern, Olmstedian, sense (see post on Frederick Law Olmsted and the father of landscape architecture).

Carley Sefton as Chief Executive of the Learning through Landscapes Trust gave a presentation of what has been achieved since its establishment (30 years ago) AND of what remains to be done. It’s a lot.

Posted in landscape architecture, landscape design theory, public parks Tagged with: , ,

Landscape and garden weddings

Feast in a renaissance garden with the wedding procession beyond

Landscape architects, who pay increasing attention to programming the events which take place in the spaces they plan and design, could give more thought to weddings and wedding photography. Every couple likes to have brilliant photographs of their wedding and designers can help by providing good settings. Renaissance gardens often had compartments for festivals, processions, weddings, and masquerades. Gardens are often re-designed to accommodate garden weddings. Good!

Posted in garden design, landscape architecture, urban design

Policy for London’s Quietways

quietway 1 fatality death

The ghost bike marks the spot, on London’s best ‘quietway’, where Antonio Marchesini was killed  at 4.15pm on June 3 2018 in Deptford (at the junction of Childers Street and Rolt Street). If this is a ‘quiet’ way I’m an albatros. 

London’s ‘quietways’ are not quiet enough. TfL explain them as: ‘continuous and convenient cycle routes on less-busy backstreets across London’. They are on backstreets. But they not continuous,  because there are so many unimproved junctions. Their convenience is for local trips: for longer ‘strategic’ trips most cyclists prefer to take their chances on the TLRN red routes. Nor are the Quietways safe.  TfL state that cycle usage of Q1 rose by 56% from its opening in 2014 to June 2017. I guess this was from a low base and that most of the trips are local. In 2018 22.2% of London cyclist fatalities were on Quietway 1.

22.2% of London cyclist deaths in 2018 were on the flagship Quietway 1

Andrew Gilligan, who was London’s cycling commissioner when the quietway programme was launched, commented that:

Gilligan further explains that ‘The difficulty with the Quietways programme was that it runs almost entirely on borough roads and, as I said before, most of the boroughs lack the political leadership necessary. ‘ ‘We should not try to do things that cannot be done. The money should instead be diverted to that handful of boroughs, those five or six, which have both the capability and the willingness to do things.’

Citymetric comments that ‘Quietways are on the 95 per cent of London’s roads run by its 32 boroughs, which take a variety of very differing view on cycling. The result is an at times notional mixed bag of routes: some are little more than signage and painted bike stencils on roads, but they’re interspersed with good interventions, dependent largely on which borough boundary you just crossed’.

The Aseasyasridingabike blog  comments that ‘the Dutch wouldn’t get themselves into this kind of problem in the first place. They wouldn’t be trying to join up a ‘cycle route’ across a main road where the side streets don’t line up. The side streets would just be ordinary, residential side streets, and there wouldn’t be a need for a dedicated cycle crossing, because this wouldn’t be ‘a route’. People would be cycling along the parallel and much more direct main roads just to the south and the north, the A2, and the A2206, if they want to go anywhere.’

The LCC London Cycling Campaign comments that ‘Current Quietways proposals fail at key hurdles: busier junctions are often not appropriately treated to separate cyclists from motor vehicle traffic in time and/or space – some of these junctions will remain hostile enough for current cyclists, they certainly won’t enable all-ages, all-abilities cycling or entice those who want quieter routes to cycle; there are also too many busier road sections that are far from “quiet”, without appropriate space for cycling measures – whether that’s protected tracks or modal filters or other methods, too often the proposed design is simply more paint and logos on the road.’

Caroline Russell (a London Assembly member) commented in 2018 that ‘The Mayor is relying too much on Quietways, but he knows as well as me that they aren’t the answer and won’t convince nervous people new to cycling to use their bikes on the road. They’re also not suitable for children biking to school because they’re not joined up routes, they’re not segregated from motorised traffic and so they’re not safe. ‘

My comments are

  • the quietways not direct enough or fast enough for commuter use
  • the quietways are not enjoyable enough or safe enough for leisure use
  • trying to kill two birds with stone often leads to them both escaping

Quietway 1 (see detailed review and assessment) was once a London Cycle Network use. Despite its tragic accidents, it is not a complete failure. But nor is it a substitute for a good commuter route and a leisure route between Greenwich and Central London. Some people use it for longer commuter trips and others use it for local trips. What SE London needs is:

  • A cycle  superhighway on the A200 (Evelyn Street – Lower Road – Jamaica Road)
  • A  Thames Cycle Path that follows the river as closely as possible – as the Thames path walkway does.

See also

18 videos on London cycleway network planning

Posted in London cycle network

Costing and phasing London’s Cycleway Network

London cycling mode share

Should London plan for a cycling mode share of 9% or 41%?

Should London’s cycling infrastructure be planned for a mode share of  9% or 41%? And when should the plan be implemented?

The TfL 2018 London Cycle Action Plan is strong on intentions, vague on phasing and vague on costings. So here’s a bash at filling in the blanks. The above chart shows (1) the 9% expected outcome for London if current policies are projected to 2041 (2) the investment  required to ‘Copenhagenize‘  London with a cycling mode share of 41%.

The London Infastructure Plan 2050 (Mayor of London, 2014) proclaimed that: ‘the aims for cycling are to reach levels seen in cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen’ 1. This is followed by an incorrect figure: the London plan is for ‘cycling’s mode share for all trips increasing to at least 10 per cent’. Copenhagen’s mode share was 41% in 2018.

compare cycle network london copenhagen

To be proportionally equivalent to Copenhagen, London would require 4,488 km (2805 miles) or safe cycleway

The Plan  2050 also has an unrealistic ‘indicative cost’ of £2-£4 billion for a ‘comprehensive network of high quality cycle and pedestrian routes’. This is maybe a tenth of the actual cost (about, £28 billion, as detailed below) yet less than the estimated £30bn billion cost of  the second phase of Crossrail 2 .

Though costing more than £2- £4 billion, a London Cycleway Network would provide outstanding value for money and would accommodate up to 18 times as many extra trips/year as Crossrail 1 .    Physically the cycle network could be built in 5 years. Financially it could be phased over 5, 25 or  more years.  Having taken the decision to Copenhagenize London transport, it is time to decide how quickly the cycleway network should be built. The costs and benefits of rail and cycle investments must be systematically assessed.

The approximate costs for London cycle infrastructure (at 2018 prices) are:

  • Superhighways: £10-£12m/mile
  • Quietways: £1-£2m/mile
  • Mini-Hollands (like Waltham Forest, using traffic calming, filtered permeability and cycle lanes) £30-£60m/borough


cycling london copenhagen

The Opencyclemap makes it look as though London has a better cycle network than Copenhagen. This is because London maps recommended cycle routes and Copenhagen maps real cycling infrastructure.

A comparison with Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a cycling capital of the first order. It is 1/11th the size of London. It has 250 miles (400 km) of segregated cycle paths. The area of the city is 68.9 sq miles. The population is 0.77 million. The density is 11,000/sq mile. The diameter is 6.5 sq miles. The cycling mode share is 41%. The length of cycle path amounts to 0.5146 metres/person.

London has 7.5 miles (12 km) of good quality segregated cycle superhighway on A-to-B commuter desire lines. The area of the city is 607  sq miles. The population is 8.8 million. The density is 14,500/sq mile. The diameter of the M25 is 40-50 miles. The cycling mode share is 2.5%. The length of cycle path amounts to 0.0014 metres/person.

In the 1940s the cycling mode share was over 40% in both London and Copenhagen. In 2000 it was 20% in Copenhagen and 1 % in London. In 2018 it was 41% in Copenhagen and 2.5% in London (see graph below). The level of cycling investment/person is also higher in Copenhagen. (London: £2/head in 2004, £17/head in 2016, £22.50/head in 2019; Copenhagen:  average £35/head from 2004-2016). One would expect investment to be higher in London because of the low level of investment in the twentieth century.

London’s cycle infrastructure in 2018-19

cycle infrastructure

TfL plans to spend about £183.73 million/year on cycle infrastructure from 2019-2023 (£20.88/person)

The so-called London Cycle Network is a route network. It is not an infrastructure network. So we should focus on the 2015-17 cycle superhighways. In March 2018 the London Assembly put their extent at 7.5 miles (12 km) [‘cycleway’ is used on this website to mean a high quality facility designed for safe cycling]. TfL also built 87 miles of quietway in 2018 at a cost of £111m (£1.3m/mile) (see reviews of quietway policy).

 London cycling infrastructure

Mayor Khan’s investment plans for London cycling infrastructure [This post uses the 12 km figure but I think London had 15.5 km of superhighway when Khan was elected, so the promise was to build an extra 31 km by 2020. CS3, the East West Superhighway has a length of 9.4 km/5.9 miles] .

Construction of superhighways is expected to resume in 2019. If £180m/year is spent 2019-2025 (£1.08 bn)  London will have 7.5+108 = 115.5 miles of good quality cycle infrastructure by 2025. TfL predicts this will double the mode share of cycling in London travel from 2.5% to 5%. My guess is that half of  this increase would happen without new cycle infrastructure.

As in Central London, cycle infrastructure should be built alongside the TfL London Road Network (the TLRN Red Routes).  It provides the most direct A-to-B connections in London. The TLRN should become a Red and Green Network.

 The London Cycleway Network in 2025

Several outcomes are possible.

  1. If  no new infrastructure is built the cycling mode share is likely to rise from 2.5% to 3.5% (because London’s population and its travel demand are growing)
  2. If TfL invests £180m/year for 6 years (=£1.08bn) it could build 108 miles of segregated cycleway and raise the mode share from 2.5% to 5% (this is TfL’s plan)
  3. If TfL converts its 360 miles of Redway to Redway+Greenway,  the mode share would rise to 14% and the cost would be £3.6bn (£600m/year for 6 years)
  4. If TfL goes ahead with Copenhagenizing London and invests at the ‘Crossrail rate’ of £1.5bn/year  it could build  900 miles of cycleway by 2025 and expect to raise the mode share of cycling in London to 36%

Phones, trains and cycle infrastructure require a connected network to get full value from the asset. For a day’s business (working, studying, shopping etc)  cyclists want the shortest possible A-to-B connections. Quiet green surroundings are preferred but only when the routes are direct as well as environmentally delightful. In London this means cyclists want to ride, however reluctantly, on the TLRN. It has a length of 360 miles so, at £10m/mile, it would cost £3.6bn to provide segregated lanes.

The London Cycleway Network in 2041

TfL’s reason for using 2041 as a planning date is unclear. But two of the alternatives for the condition of London’s cycle infrastructure in that year are:

  • If London continues to invest in cycling at the 2019 rate of £180m/year it is likely to achieve a mode share of 9% by 2041. It would take 155 years to reach Copenhagen’s 41% mode share: too long for most of us to wait.
  • If London decides to raise the investment level to £1.28 billion/year it can increase the mode share to 41% by 2041 [41 for ’41]. The cost, £28 bn for a 2,805 mile cycleway network, would be less than the projected cost of Crossrail 2 (£30bn).

A 41% cycling mode share the London Cycleway Network would be carrying 10.9m journeys/day which is 18 times as many as Crossrail 1. TfL predict that by 2050 London travel demand will rise by 10.7m trips/day (from 26.8m to 37.52m). To accommodate this expansion using rail infrastructure, 18 new lines with Crossrail capacity would be required. At 2018 Crossrail  prices, this would cost £374bn (£17bn/year for 22 years). A London Cycleway Network is the only financially viable way of providing London with the additional travel capacity TfL predicts it will require.

Videos about London bicycle transport planning

If you have read to here you might also like to see some videos about planning for bicycle transport:


  1. Crossrail 1 was approved in 2007 and construction began in 2009. The predicted cost-overrun from 2018-19 (£1.7bn) is close to the cycling budget for 10 years. Crossrail 1  was scheduled to open in 2018 but this did not happen. Crossrail 2 is under consideration and consultations have begun.
  2. Quotes from the London Infrastructure Plan 2050 (Mayor of London, 2014) Page 14:  ‘Under the central population projection, this would mean an increase of 35-40 per cent in the number of trips by 2050, with even higher growth in demand for public transport’. Page 50:  ‘the aims for cycling are to reach levels seen in cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen’. Page 98 ‘cycling’s mode share for all trips increasing to at least 10 per cent’. Page 98: ‘To enable this, by 2050 London should have a comprehensive, high quality cycle network catering for all journey types and cyclists of all ages. This should include 200 kms of new Dutch-style cycle highways, which will help remove significant barriers to cycling in London’. Page 98: ‘Transport Requirement 23 – A comprehensive network of high quality cycle and pedestrian routes (indicative cost: £2-4 billion)’.
  3. Graph  showing changes in cycling mode share in Copenhagen and London from the 1940s to 2018.
London Cycle Network, investment expenditure and expected cycling mode share in 2041

London Cycle Network, investment expenditure and expected cycling mode share in 2041

Posted in cycleways, London cycle network, London Cycleway Plan

Green the Redways: Copenhagenize the TfL Transport for London Road Network TLRN



Colville-Andersen’s diagram fits London very well, illustrating how “THEY” want to provide cheap disconnected routes on backstreets and “WE” want safe and perceived-to-be-safe cycleways to provide commuter cyclist with the shortest and fastest cycle trips routes from A to B.  London needs a metropolitan bicycle transport network asap.

London’s TfL Red Routes should become Red and Green Routes (like the Embankment section of CS3)

TfL should Copenhagenize London’s the TLRN (Transport for London Road Network. Copenhagenization means confiscating the warships of a defeated enemy, which is what the British did in 1807. Mikael Colville-Andersen uses ‘Copenhagenize’ to mean good cycle planning. I’ve been reading his book and wish the TfL board would read it too. The left below diagram should be applied to London by converting the TLRN from ‘Red Routes’ to ‘Red and Green Routes’, as as TfL did to the Embankment Section of CS3 Putting segregated cycle paths in both directions would make it a Red-Green Network.

One million dots. London has 1 mile of cycle superhighway for each 1,170,000 people. Copenhagen (shown by green dots) has 1 mile of segregated cycle path for each 1,943 citizens

See also: 

Costing and phasing London’s Cycleway Network

Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism by Mikael Colville-Andersen, Island Press, 2018, review by Tom Turner

Costs, benefits and cost benefit ratios of Crossrail and a Londonwide Cycleway Network.

16 Principles for Cycleway Network Planning

Four step model for bicycle network infrastructure planning

Bicycle network planning and design : in Edinburgh, Cambridge and London

Posted in cycleways, London cycle network, urban design

Little Free Libraries for urban landscapes

Little library

A Little Library is a great addition to a street, square or public open space (Edinburgh UK)

Little Free Libraries are a great idea.  Landscape architects should include them in designs for public open spaces including parks, squares, piazzas etc. Universities should have several on every campus for textbooks as well as leisure reading. In 2010 I proposed a Bookcrossing shelf for the British Library Courtyard. Books belong on shelves and need protection from the weather. If just left on seats and walls you wonder if the owner still wants the book. If lodged in a friendly little home, preferably with a green roof, you know you’re welcome to be it’s next owner. Public libraries are being closed. Bookshelves are disappearing from homes because of eBooks.

public open space should be for culture as well as horticulture

So lets put them in public open spaces. They will attract and retain users, providing visual policing for other open space users. Landscape practices (and Landscape Institute) can sponsor signboards with the Little Free Library logo + the LI Logo

Little Free Library

Little Free Library designed as a house, in Easthampton (US)

Little Free Library

Little Free Library in a park in Almaville (US)

Posted in landscape architecture, public parks, school grounds, urban design

Michael Brown and the landscape architecture of housing

Michael Brown Brunel Estate

Landscape design by Michael Brown for a brick bank meeting curved steps, on the Brunel Estate in  Westbourne Park, West London (image, Colin Moore).

Many thanks to Colin Moore for remembering Michael Brown’s work in a Merl blog post.

Michael Brown’s office (in which Colin worked) produced the best UK housing landscape designs of the 1960s and 70s.  The outdoor space was very well conceived, well designed, well built and well planted. The office was a hive of activity and remarkably prolific.

But the trail Brown blazed led to almost nowhere. ‘Council housing’ fell out of fashion (for both good and bad). It was replaced by ‘social housing’ which mostly lacked the idealism that underpinned Michael’s work. Too-often it is led by developers instead of designers.

Another part of the reason for the switch was that so many other ‘housing estates’ were really bad. Their layout was driven by highway engineers, supported by planners, with far too much space allocated to roads and car parking. Most architects proved themselves totally inept at site planning, as Milton Keynes proved. Since site planning was not part of architectural education, and still isn’t, this is forgivable. Another problem was that local authority housing management departments were often bad managers. This is not forgivable.

Colin Moore notes that ‘Some (if not many) of Michael’s other projects of that time have been lost to redevelopment, e.g. Heygate, Euston Square, Herries Street (North and South), Mozart Street, St Mary’s Churchyard Playground, Royal Northern College of Music roofgarden (Manchester); and others are under threat (or perhaps already gone), e.g. Winstanley Road, Graham Park. And the future of Lancaster Rd is uncertain following the Grenfell fire. Some of the redevelopments involve landscape practices who don’t research the history of the sites they are dealing with.’

gardens first william webb

Gardens first in land development is an excellent principle. William Webb concentrated on private gardens. The principle also applies to communal gardens and public gardens

Michael Brown was guided by the principle that housing layout should start from the creation of good outdoor space. A related principle was encapsulated in the title of a 1920 book by William Webb: Garden First in Land Development. Site planning for housing should begin with the layout of the best possible outdoor space. Dwellings can then be arranged to create and define the space. This is how the squares of Georgian London were planned.

Today’s version of Webb’s principle is: LANDSCAPE FIRST IN LAND DEVELOPMENT.

Posted in bad architecture & planning, landscape architecture, urban design, urban squares

The Yorkshire trod is a great way to make a footpath

Yorkshire trod (photo by archaeologist Jim Leary)

The OED defines a trod as ‘A trodden way; a footpath, path, way. (dialect)’.   Phillips New World of Words (1678) explained Trode as ‘an old word signifying a path’. It slipped out of general use but survives in some parts of the country. Often, a trod is a trodden route across a field. In Yorkshire stone trods were laid (eg across the North York Moors) as commercial trade routes and, of course, desire lines.
Jim writes that  ‘Completely obsessed with these “trods” of the North York Moors. Paved routeways made of flagstones – some medieval. There’s a network of them across the moors. Spent weeks searching out as many as I can.”

Landscape architects should being the word ‘trod’ back into use as a noun. We could make points like these:

  • ‘a trod is always wide enough and never wider’
  • ‘a flagstone makes a good trod’
  • ‘why make it more than a trod’s width’
  • ‘if it’s not trod space it should be vegetated’
  • ‘trods make great greenways’

There are many occasions when a path should be wider than a trod, and many occasions on which they should be no wider. Our architectural friends love blank paving for its own sake, and often need to be reasoned out of their belief. I wish this had been done for Deptford Creekside.


trod path

A trodden path through a field reveals a desire line, probably for both humans and animals


Posted in greenways, landscape architecture, urban design

Should wearing cycle helmets be compulsory? No.


The below diagram from Copenhagenize illustrates the balance of expert opinion.

Cycle helmet safety

Academic studies of the health consequences of wearing cycle helmets

A cycle helmet will save your life in a relatively low proportion of cycle accidents. So I wear one, except when the weather is too hot.
When they made wearing helmets compulsory for Australian cyclists the use of bicycles for commuting fell sharply. This leads to obesity and the health problems associated with a lack of exercise. Therefore not making helmets compulsory is good for health. QED.

Forcing cyclists to dress like road warriors might give them a false sense of security and might make them think and act like road warriors. Not good.

Cycle helmet safety

Cycle helmets give cyclists a false sense of security, as well as causing overheating and reducing their awareness of potential hazards. This kind of helmet was designed for high speed motor cycling.

Few Dutch cyclists wear helmets and Holland has half the number of cycling deaths/km as the UK. QED.


Posted in cycleways, urban design