How to make public space dull – fill it with cars

The visualisations Transport for London have been producing recently for the Superhighways – and for the Oval junction redesign – have attracted some comment from naysayers, about how little motor traffic is shown.

Blackfriars-Jnct-low-res-final-approved-03.07.14-630x417By implication, TfL have wished motor traffic out of existence, not showing the horrendous congestion that, it is alleged, will result following the reallocation of roadspace.

Oval image 1-2There’s undoubtedly an element of truth to this. The purpose of a visualisation is to sell the scheme being proposed, and showing congestion isn’t a great selling point.

But I don’t think there’s any grand conspiracy here – any visualisation of a new road or street scheme will tend to show very little motor traffic, Exhibition Road being a fairly typical example.

However, the reason for this is probably much more mundane than any attempt to pull the wool over the public’s eyes, regarding potential congestion. It’s that filling a visualisation with cars doesn’t make the space you are presenting very attractive. Who wants to look at hundreds of fairly anonymous metal boxes, when you could instead show human beings, smiling, walking, interacting with each other?

Indeed, more generally, cars are very dull things to fill public space with.

Don’t get me wrong – some cars are attractive, and nice to look at. But plonking large numbers of average-looking cars on roads and streets makes those spaces much, much less interesting than if they were filled with people.

Who wants to look at this?

DSCN9717Or this?DSCN9879

Pretty uninteresting. By contrast, public space filled with human beings…

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 16.22.19… is much more diverting.

That’s why visualisations tend not to include large numbers of motor vehicles – even if that’s unrealistic.

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5 Responses to How to make public space dull – fill it with cars

  1. Neil says:

    I would suggest that naysayers should watch car ads on TV if you want to see pure fantasy!!

  2. as a quick little exercise- anyone care to do a rough and ready job of filling up the road space in those artists impressions with the realistic bumper-to-bumper traffic?

  3. baoigheallain says:

    Actually I think criticising the visuals for insufficient vehicles is a mistake by the nay-sayers.

    If the visual artist really put the true number of vehicles in the visual, and I’ve just cycled along the Embankment motorway this afternoon so I know what it’s really like, everyone would look at the desolate expanse of metal and say “we must do more to rid ourselves of these motors”.

  4. KristianCyc says:

    Also, if you’re trying to demonstrate a street or road layout, it helps if you can see the street/road. Vast amounts of cars would block the view and make it hard to see what the new layout actually was and how it works.

  5. mikey bikey says:

    As well as the unrealistically low number of vehicles, there is perhaps a likewise disappointingly low number of cyclists to justify the expenditure on the extensive infrastructure shown, double oops.
    And the pedestrians, that we’re told will be so delayed, have all flocked to the Exhibition road pedestrianized area, with apparently no bikes allowed at all😦.
    +1 to see PTV Vissum/Vissim? (who do work for TfL) render the Dutch levels of cyclists and pedestrians, with London level of vehicles. Could it be done on SimCity?😉

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