Sustainable Layouts and Parking: Learning from Lund

Lund in Sweden is well known for its sustainable approach to urban planning and transport. Around 42% of working population cycle to work. It is an important rail junction and has just open-ended a tram system. Despite its eastern expansion being blocked by a 1950s Motorway being built too close to its old town in managed to leap over it and still expand in a managed sustinable way.

It has long been part of my presentation deck of examples to UK cities on how to do it; however more recently I took a closer look at the design of its new neighbourhoods; because they do go well beyond practice in other otherwise excellently planned cities like Malmo and Stockholm. Part of this must be due to the proximity of the University of Lund with its world renowned course in sustainable urban design. If you look at Malmo and Stockholm the design of parking in residential neighbourhoods is quite conventional. In Lund it is quite different.

The striking thing about looking at aerial photos of new neighbourhoods in Lund is that you cant see any cars. There are some examples of on plot covered parking but these are no longer the majority in newer neighbourhoods. What you see instead is parking and car access excluded from most of a residential neighbourhood. Instead it is either pushed to its edges, or to centrally located neighbourhood in communal parking courts. These are the secret as they produce a number of key benefits. One immediate objection comes to mind, the parking courts are not overlooked, secured by design tut tut tut. It doesn’t matter, if the communal courts are large enough there will always be eyes from pedestrians. You don’t see much crime in a supermarket car park do you?

With the pushing away of cars away from the body of a neighbourhood cars are pushed to the edges, and with car modal share being low they are not busy. With this access routes from the communal parking areas or intradistrict cycling/walking corridors are primarily by cycling/walking roads only. This means that the walking distance between the communal parking area and a home has to be quite low, 200-300m is quite typical. This means that around 4 of these ‘home cells’ to coin a phrase make up a ‘walkable neighbourhood’ of the 15 minute city, and in Lund often two of these neighbourhoods are developed either side of a tram stop or station. Im not sure of the genesis of this concept but I suspect it is from study of medieval town and villages with streets too narrow for cars where communal parking areas are developed at the edges. You can even see at least one modern ‘traditional’ urban development like this in Sweden at Jakriborg nearby.

Front pedestrian/cycle only access – no need for front/back confusion as in Radburn layouts

Of course houses and apartments must still be accessed by emergency service vehicles and waste/recyclings psvs. here you can see a very clever technique. Each units needs to be a hose length from tenders, around 50m, and communal bins are used a maximum of around 50m from each unit. These are accessed across slightly wider cycling/walking access roads in a one way pattern, which means at junctions only one of the four splays needs to be wide enough to accommodate tender/PSV turning radii.

The key benefit to layouts is creation of space. The huge amount of space dedicated on plot to parking and car access (which can be over 25%) is reclaimed, as is the land wasted in local distributor and access roads. This space allows for higher densities and more creative urban forms. Around double the density of similar cells with on plot parking, also with greater proprtions of apartments. The sellable and buildable area for development is increased. In many housebuilder led layouts in the UK there is resistance to giving up ‘sellable land’ to walking/cycling and greenspace, but Lund layouts show that this trade off only exist because not enough priority was given to pedestrians and cyclists in the layout. Similarly the perceived conflict between cycle and non cycle access to streets in the concept of ‘filtered permeability’ doesnt exist, car trip length is shortened not forced to go around and emergency service and delivery vehicles can get everywhere. Note these kinds of layouts are aided by Swedish parking law where visitors can park on most streets, but not for more than 24hrs.

Neighbourhoods are typically connected by bus/cycle only roads and cars are pushed outside neighbourhoods to collector roads.

A busway
Busway connecting neighbourhoods and separating cells. Cars access from collector roads around neighbourhood edges

A second key advantage is that no longer constrained by road geometry streets can be shorter and often more angular opening up more direct walking/cycling routes, road layouts and housing forms more typically found in traditional towns and more varied townscapes with picturesque composition at corners and greatee penetration of structural greenery.

In higher density apartment areas perimeter blocks are clustered around parking courts with typically one court per three perimeter blocks.

With the high non car modal split demand for parking spaces is lower and higher density neighbourhoods, even at the city edges, seem to operate at parking standards between 0.3-0.5 spaces per unit. More conventional villa developments are comfertable with 1 space per dwelling.

The greater freedome in layouts also creates greater freedom in dwelling forms, someting to be aware of in coding. You see franfurt style superblocks, villas, terraces of bungalows, cluster blocks, permiter apartment blocks, diagonal and diamond placements. There is considerable innovation.

Note Added: Reaction to this post has been huge. Two questions keep popping up, both of which I meant to address in the original.

What about heavy shopping. If you have two in a car you can drop off on the access ony roads then park in the communal paring areas. Note the huge weekly shop is a mark of car dependent areas. in cities more frequent shopping via walking is the norm.

What about disabled parking? I dont know about the local regs but I assume people use mobility scooters vis cycling lanes to access the short distance to parking areas. The city has a vast stock of terraced bungalows with covered in curtilage parking.