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.”

Flower power: Chelsea’s streets come alive in bloom

by Colin J Davis, of Streetscapes.online and author of Streetscapes: how to design and deliver great streets

 

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Our campaign is for healthier, happier and more livable streets. What could be more uplifting than the splendid displays of flowers in, on and around the shop fronts of Chelsea during the week of the flower show?

Picking up the theme of love, emphasised at the royal wedding at Windsor the previous weekend, the Chelsea in Bloom displays were very individual but with firm coordination.

How can this (obviously commercial) enthusiasm be replicated across London? One way is to help people to work together. An independent trader or a store manager perhaps needs to be introduced to a local gardening group.

People love flowers but might not be too knowledgeable about how to grow them. This could lead to local people being even more involved in improving to their own streets.

A new book — Streetscapes by Colin Davis — produced with the cooperation of Living Streets may also help. It brings together all the elements of successful streets including systems to reduce the impact of traffic, encourage walking and help make streets more enjoyable. It is available at Amazon for £15.

Walking news from Hackney’s Cycling Conference

PhilGlanville

One of the many noteworthy announcements from Hackney’s seventh cycling conference was that next year it will add ‘walking’ to its title.

This is welcome, not simply because this was one of Hackney Living Street’s demands in its campaign manifesto for the May elections, but also because it reflects an understanding that cycling is just one ingredient in a liveable city. If cities are for everyone — and not just motorists — they must encourage walking and living as well as cycling. Or as Andreas Røhl, Gehl Architects’ biking expert put it, ‘cycling isn’t the goal, it’s a means to an end’.

Listed below are some other key announcements and inspirations from last week’s event, many of which – we are happy to announce — originate from London Living Streets campaigns.

Bollards are the future

Or so said Simon Phillips, transport manager from Lambeth Council. Thankfully, filtered permeability — using features like bollards or planters to stop rat-running traffic on residential streets —  gained a lot of airtime at the conference. Phillips made the important point that we should be looking beyond TfL’s Healthy Streets to building ‘Healthy Neighbourhoods’, or wider cells with less traffic and more liveable environments.

London Living Streets chair, Jeremy Leach and London Cycling Campaign’s Simon Munk presented their invaluable new guidance on low-traffic liveable neighbourhoods. These briefing documents are packed with detail and advice from campaigners, councillors, engineers, planners and engagement specialists.

But speakers were realistic about challenges in building wider support for the concept. As Feryal Demirci, Hackney’s deputy mayor said, ‘this is not a perfect science. Whilst we at getting more sophisticated in tackling car dominance, so are the arguments against it.’

Glanville made an interesting point that while a few years ago the argument may have been framed as motorists versus cyclists, today it is more about ownership of space, or hyper-local arguments about what people want from the space where they live.

Councils must learn from this. Munk advised councils to give residents greater agency in shaping transformation of their areas. Gone are the days of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ consultations, he said. Residents must be brought in from the outset, for example via surveys about their street. If residents say they want to cut traffic or improve safety, then councils can show how schemes can address those principles.

Parklets

Welcome news also came from Hackney’s mayor about plans for a residential ‘parklet’ programme. This follows the campaign by London Living Streets campaigner, Brenda Puech who installed a mini park  or ‘parklet’ on a car-parking space outside her home in Hackney.

Hackney Council opposed her efforts in 2017, forcing her to move the People’s Parking Bay to various locations to outflank evictions. But one year on and following massive community support for the parklet, Hackney Council have come round to the idea.

This is a ground-breaking result for Puech and London Living Streets. London boroughs have paid for a handful of parklets in the past, but this is the first time a council will enable communities to create their own. Puech hopes this is a first step in changing how people think about and use our kerbside public space.

Sub 20 speed limits

One member of the audience argued that 20 mph speed limits were still too high on residential streets. In response,  TfL’s streets chief, Jeanette Baartman agreed and suggested colleagues were looking into this.

School Streets

The conference was also opportunity for Hackney Council to promote its School Streets programme, where roads around schools are closed to traffic at drop-off and pick-up times to improve road safety, reduce air pollution and encourage children to walk and cycle.

Four schools now have a school street in operation with a further 12 planned over the next four years. As Glanville says, the schemes have captured popular imagination so they expect wider take-up in and beyond Hackney. To enable this, Hackney Council is about to launch a School Street Toolkit for professionals in other boroughs.

Central London Walking Network

London Living Streets vice chair, David Harrison, presented his vision of a Central London Walking Network that would link London’s key attractions and stations.

This ‘elegant and simple’ idea would prioritise London’s medieval streets for walking and cycling, leaving later, Victorian Streets to through motor traffic. With a relatively simple face-lift these ancient, interesting and intriguing streets would be brought back to life with wider pavements, places to rest and greenery to enjoy. More information is available here.

ULEV

Delegates also heard about plans for London’s first ever ultra low emission vehicle (ULEV) streets. The plans, set to go live in July across nine streets in Shoreditch and Hoxton, will introduce two time-restricted pedestrian and cycle zones, allowing access to ULEV and local residents and businesses.

In a recent consultation, 56% of respondents were in favour and 40% opposed the plans. The restrictions will be enforced via Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras, from Monday to Friday between 7am- 10am and 4pm-7pm.

‘I was pleased to see a number of mainstream press coverage around the scheme, and it certainly contributed to the large number of consultation responses from taxi drivers,’ said Mayor Glanville.

Quietways

Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, announced that London will not give up on its Quietway programme, quoting a figure that 11% of Quietway 1’s cyclists have switched trips from cars. He said they will be revisiting the design of routes and consider more traffic filtering to reduce motor traffic.

Bigger picture

Once again, Norman made all the right noises about ‘getting people out of their tin boxes’ and the importance of evidence when promoting active forms of travel. We hope these aspirations are matched by actions. London Living Streets remains concerned about the recent approval of the Silvertown Tunnel beneath the River Thames in East London. If London’s mayor and TfL believe in evidence, we’d hope they consider the evidence which proves more roads encourage more cars.

Main image of Hackney Mayor, Phil Glanville courtesy of Hackney Council