PDF: FoP-document about the value of Public Space


PDF: FoP-document about the value of Public Space
Benefits of Public Space
Public space is a vital component of a prosperous city. Well designed and managed
public spaces are a key asset for a city’s functioning and has a positive impact on its
economy, health, climate, safety, integration and connectivity. The quality of life for
people in cities is directly related to the state of its public spaces. Public space is
one of the key pillars of urban and global sustainable development, accompanied
by appropriate enabling legislation and a
­ dequate financial and economic measures
that promote public revenue, private income and investment and wealth creation.
Public space supports the economy
Well designed and managed public spaces add economic value to places and can therefore positively
affect the local economy, employment opportunities,
business investments, tourism, etc. A high-quality
public environment can have a significant impact on the
economic life of urban centres big or small, and is therefore an essential part of any successful regeneration
strategy. As cities increasingly compete with one another
to attract investment, the presence of good streets, market places, parks, squares, gardens and other public facilities becomes a vital business and marketing tool. In
addition, good public spaces can increase the land values
of the adjacent properties. Entrepreneurs, large or small,
are attracted to locations that offer well-designed,
well-managed public places and these in turn attract customers, employees and services.
Public space fosters social cohesion
Public space provides room for social and cultural
interaction and can foster a sense of belonging and
pride in an area. A public space that is open to all,
regardless of ethnic origin, age or gender, provides a
democratic forum for citizens and society. When properly designed and cared for, they bring communities
together, provide meeting places and foster social ties of
a kind that have been disappearing in many urban areas.
These spaces shape the cultural identity of an area, are
part of its unique character and provide a sense of place
for local communities. Public space is often referred to
as ’the poor man’s living room’ which hints at its particular importance for the recreation of vulnerable groups,
but also its ability to foster integration between different
socio-economic groups. Improving access to good public spaces for the most vulnerable urban residents is a
powerful tool to improve equity, promote inclusion and
combat discrimination. Cities that strive towards social
equity need to provide access to good public spaces
(streets, market places, recreation facilities, etc.) so as to
enhance community cohesion, gender equality and civic
identity. Women use the streets and public spaces more
frequently and for a greater variety of purposes than men.
Women are more likely to use the city’s network of public spaces. Approaches may vary from street lightening
to initiatives promoting urban safety.
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Public space enhances safety
A mixed and diverse public space (use, users,
design, state, time, etc.) provides a place that is
vibrant and busy automatically reducing insecurity.
Fear of crime and, to a much lesser extent crime itself,
can deter people, not just vulnerable groups, from using
even good-quality public spaces. Children, youth and
elderly, for example, are often prevented from using our
parks, squares and streets because of fear of crime and
violence. In addition, women often face particular
­concerns, and due to fear of crime and violence are
often restricted from entering public space in some
areas. Physical changes to, and the better management
of, public space can help to allay these fears. Particularly, public space can reduce perceptions of insecurity
through attracting a large cross section of people at all
times of day.
Public space improves public health
Quality public spaces improve our health by providing opportunities for physical activity and play, making walking more attractive, reducing stress and
providing a calming environment. Access to
good-quality, well-maintained network of public spaces
can help to improve our physical and mental health by
encouraging us to walk more, to play, or simply enjoy
the environment. In other words, our open spaces are
powerful weapons in the fight against many forms of
ill-health. For example, play is crucial for many aspects
of children’s development; from the acquisition of social
skills, experimentation and the confrontation and resolution of emotional crises, to moral understanding, cognitive skills such as language and comprehension, and of
course physical skills. In addition, green public space
provides an opportunity for people to be close to
‘nature’, with the associated positive impact that this can
bring in terms of mental health and the simple pleasure
of experiencing wildlife in an urban situation.
Public space increases transportation efficiency
Public space can reduce congestion, travel time and
road accidents through appropriately designing and
managing different transport modes and prioritizing
routes for walking and cycling. One of the fundamental
functions of public space is that it allows us to move
around and to access– on foot, by bicycle, by car, motorbike or public transport. A key objective of urban design
and management is therefore to reconcile the needs of
these often conflicting modes of transport. Well-designed
streets and public spaces encourage walking and cycling,
and have the power to create a safe environment by reducing vehicle speeds and use. Concepts such as shared space
or home zones are demonstrating the benefits of redesigning streets for shared use for all modes of transportation.
Public space improves the environment
Green and open public space brings many important
environmental benefits to urban areas, including the
cooling of air and the absorption of atmospheric
pollutants. The significant increase in hard surfacing
and the reduction in green spaces lead to higher temperatures in towns and cities than in the surrounding
countryside. Vegetation in the public space can help to
redress this imbalance. Public space can also help mitigate climate change by linking places together, making it
easier and more attractive to move around by walking
and cycling, improving the environment around public
transport hubs, encouraging people to use public transport, minimising carbon emissions through the choice of
materials and construction technologies. Public space
can also help adapt to the effects of climate change by
acting as sustainable drainage system, solar temperature
moderator, source of cooling corridors, wind shelter and
wildlife habitat.