Council trial invites Hackney residents to replace parking bays with mini parks

Inspired by the direct action of Hackney Living Streets campaigner, Brenda Puech, Hackney Council is launching a trial today that allows Hackney residents to turn kerbside parking spaces into mini parks, or ‘parklets’.

In a bid to reduce ‘the dominance of cars on our roads’, Hackney Council is inviting residents to submit ideas for community parklets that could include planters, benches, games, notice boards or ‘anything that your creativity and inventiveness can come up with’.

The trial scheme will support 15 parklets on residential streets with grants of up to £150. Once trialled and in consultation with neighbours, originators can apply for them to become permanent.  Residents or ‘parklet keepers’ will be responsible for the design, installation and maintenance of them. More information is available at hackney.gov.uk/parklets.  Applications close on August 26.

The trial was born out of a campaign by Puech who was frustrated with the extraordinary freedoms given to motor vehicles at the expense of other road users. In Hackney, around two thirds of residents, like her, do not own cars, but the majority of kerbside space is given over to low-cost car parking.

In 2017, she took action and transformed a parking space outside her home near London Fields into a parklet (pictured above). Residents were instantly supportive, using the space with its bench, bright red umbrella, artificial grass and flower pots to rest, relax, talk and play.

The council opposed the idea, forcing her to move it to different locations to outflank evictions. But one year on, influenced by the positive reaction from residents, the council has changed its position and decided to let others follow Puech’s lead.

This shift in policy is unprecedented. Councils have paid huge sums for a few token parklets before, but this is the first time communities will gain freedom to set up low-cost versions themselves.

This is a major triumph for Puech and London Living Streets, proving that both councils and communities are ready to rethink how we use and imagine our streets.

Brenda Puech is at Broadway Market today, 25 July, with her original parklet to launch the trial.  Watch this space for updates as the trial progresses.

City needs to be walker-friendly

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The following letter from London Living Streets vice chairman, David Harrison appeared in the Evening Standard, 9 July 2018.

Chris Haywood and the City of London Corporation are to be congratulated on their determination [“Pedestrian areas mulled to ease City of London overcrowding,” July 2] to address the Eastern Cluster, and especially the increasingly crowded streets around Bishopsgate and Liverpool Street station, by pedestrianisation and improving walking routes and crossings. Almost 500,000 people work in the City and the number is increasing.

While there must be access for essential vehicles, it cannot be right or sensible that a handful of people in cars should continue to be given priority over the vast majority of people walking around.

If the City is to maintain its appeal, to workers and investors, especially in the challenging conditions following Brexit, it is essential that it creates a safer and more attractive and appealing environment.

David Harrison

Image:  Garry Knight, Flickr

Greater Manchester plans UK’s largest walking and cycling network

By Emma Griffin, London Living Streets website manager

Small_Chapel StreetLondon Living Streets is thrilled to see Greater Manchester’s ambitious plans to create a city region for people, not vehicles.

The Beelines proposal, announced today by Greater Manchester’s cycling and walking commissioner Chris Boardman, is welcome for its focus on crossings to create a joined-up, safe walking and cycling network across the region; and filtered, or low-traffic neighbourhoods. These priorities match many of our campaign interests.

Currently 30% of trips under 1km are still made by car in Greater Manchester, the equivalent of 15 minutes walking or five minutes cycling. A large proportion of these trips are school runs. In Netherlands, 50% of children cycle to school, compared to just 2% in Manchester.

Walking and cycling network

Beelines sets out to make walking and cycling the natural choice for these short journeys by creating a network, covering 1000 miles, that connects every neighbourhood and community.

The proposals include 75 miles of fully segregated cycle routes. But the majority of the network already exists, says Boardman. He points out that 80% of Manchester roads are already fairly quiet, with less than six cars per minute. The problem is that major roads act as severance points between them.

Crossings

Phase one of the Beelines project will put in dedicated crossing points, such as parallel signalised crossings and parallel zebra crossings, to get people walking and cycling across these major roads. Overall, the plans propose 1,400 new crossings that also include zebra crossings at every side road to encourage people to cross roads with priority and without fear. Continuous crossings such as these are essential for improving  the safety and experience of those on foot.

Boardman is also lobbying Government to change crossing and waiting times to give cyclists and pedestrians priority.

Low traffic neighbourhoods

In addition, the plans include 25 ‘filtered neighbourhoods’ that will not allow through motor traffic, but allow the movement of people and create more public spaces to sit, play and socialise.

He told The Guardian he was ‘“absolutely unapologetic” that the plans would take space away from cars and could make motor journeys slower in what is already a traffic-snarled region’.

Filtered_neighbourhoodManchester

Investment

The scale of the investment and projected speed of delivery are also impressive. It is estimated the entire network could be completed as early as 2023. This demonstrates an understanding that changes can and should be made quickly. London has set itself longer timeframes – for all Londoners to do at least 20 minutes of active travel by 2041.

The plans published today have a combined budget of around £500 million and represent a first step in the planned £1.5 billion investment. Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, has already allocated £160 million of the government’s Transforming Cities Fund to kick-start the project. This brings the total spend on cycling and walking in Greater Manchester to around £15 per head per year, almost the same as cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Chris Boardman said: “It’s not really about people using bikes and walking – it’s about making better places to live and work by giving people a real choice about how they travel. In doing so, we’ll make the city -region healthier and more prosperous.”