Monday 1 June 2015

Holidays On Foot

Well, I am back from my week off and thanks to the patience of my family, I was able to capture a few snaps of some interesting street-type stuff for future posts. But this week, some thoughts on using one's feet when on holiday.

A level surface shared space which works for people. The road goes
nowhere for vehicles (which is only accessed by those needing to
get to their caravans) and it feels very safe for all.
Like thousands of others at half term, we upped sticks and headed for the seaside for a week away. As we have done the last few years, we stayed at a nice little caravan park near Great Yarmouth and like so many people, the attraction of the site for us is there is a good swimming pool and the children get to go a bit more free-range than they are allowed to at home. By free-range, I mean that our 6 year old (nearly 7) is allowed to go to the playground and on-site shop with her 11 year old brother and he can go to the swimming pool on his own.

Why do the conditions permit such free-ranging? Well, one big plus is that the children don't need to go anywhere near any busy roads to get to amenities which are all within a 5 minute walk. This is a similar selling point for other holiday destinations such as Center Parcs and Butlins (hell, even all in leisure resorts!) - cars are seldom being used and the people on foot are in charge of the space. 

A network of well maintained and direct pathways means that it is
easier and quicker to get around this mini-neighbourhood on foot.
Caravan parks still have roads with parking either being next to the caravan or in groups in parking courts. Aside from the odd service vehicle and people going off site for the day, there are few vehicles to be seen; these places are subjectively safe with high levels of experienced safety. Of course, roads in holiday parks don't go anywhere (so no through traffic) and throw in some nice pathways to create extra permeability for pedestrians, we get something quite good for people in my view.

Perhaps not a "pretty" street, but cars are stored conveniently and
out of the way and they are there by invitation into the pedestrian's
The experience of children being able to walk around on their own (perhaps with an older sibling) and parents not having to worry is much rarer when we get back home to our neighbourhoods which are full of rat-running and speeding traffic, footway parking and busy roads which adults find difficult to cross, let alone unaccompanied children! Why more people aren't clamouring for the same at home is beyond me.

Inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places, but our stay in the caravan proves that we don't need showman designers and expensive materials to make something which has a high sense of place and works for people; this makes me happy!

OK, I have probably over-analysed this (after all I did read Jan Gehl's "Cities for People" last week), but there are countless little examples of how things can be done right and I guess the challenge is to distill this into decent guidance, supported by data - more than holiday anecdotes, I'm sure!


  1. So true about holiday parks. One can almost feel the stress dissipate upon entering. Manifested at my local in Adelaide with most children riding bikes around independently and helmet-free, in a notorious mandatory helmet law country and State.

    If only the penny would drop with these same parents when they returned to their suburban homes, but they are the same ones who vehemently protest against any slight inconvenience to them as motorists.

    Thanks for writing this revelationary post which hopefully will permeate far and wide.

    1. Jim, thanks for your kind words. I hadn't thought about places beyond the UK, but your example does show the idiocy of the law you have over there!

    2. I was thinking this morning how I cycled to work through traffic in Manhattan how many people tell me some variant of, "Yes - I cycle, but only at Center Parcs". Such places are an excellent reminder of how calm an environment people really want.

    3. Yes - our aim should be for this level of rose-tintedness for people's ordinary journeys!