Nick Searl, Partner, Argent
Max Martinez, Associate Director, Space Syntax
Bruce McVean, Associate Director, Beyond Green and Founder, Movement for Liveable London
Putting streets on the political agenda: General Election 2015
Living Streets Supporters’ Conference
10am – 4.30pm, Saturday 21st June at NCVO, King’s Cross, London.
We’re delighted to be supporting this year’s Living Streets Supporters’ Conference.
The central theme for this year’s conference is putting streets and walking on the political agenda in the run up to the General Election. With the election only 11 months away the time to get streets on the political agenda is now.
The packed programme for the day includes a keynote address from John Whitelegg, who will be addressing ‘putting sustainable transport at the of election campaigning’; Streets Question Time – your chance to ask representatives from the main political parties about there plans to put pedestrians at the heart of transport policy; and masterclass sessions covering engaging with MPs and decision makers, running a successful local campaigning group and online campaign tactics to inspire change.
The conference is free to attend. You can find more details and register to attend here.
Tom Platt, London Manager, Living Streets: Speak up for your high street (1st April 2014)
The Living Streets Speak up for your high street campaign aims to ensure councillors elected on 22nd May champion people friendly high streets following election.
The campaign proposes six practical steps councils can take to help breath new life into London’s high streets by making them more inviting places to walk and spend time. Write directly to party leaders in your borough and ask them to take the Living Streets pledge.
The Ramblers in London are an active mass-membership campaigning organisation. You might associate the Ramblers with group walking in the countryside however over 10% of our membership lives in London.
The Ramblers is approaching it’s 80th anniversary next year but we are still campaigning across the country for walkers rights and seeking new places to walk – for example we recently won a battle to introduce a coastal path around England despite pressure from government to scrap this.
Walking is everywhere in London; commuters walk to work and people walk for leisure in the city’s green spaces and along footpaths. London also has a national trail right through the middle of it – the Thames Path – and has two footpaths which circle London – the London Loop and Capital Ring. Other routes include the Green Chain Walk, which links green spaces across southeast London.
However footpaths in inner London lack legal protection. In other areas of the country footpaths are protected by their inclusion on a definitive map of public rights of way. Inner London is currently excluded from this map, something we’re campaigning to change. The lack of legal protection for where we walk is evident in how footpaths can be blocked and diverted in London with little warning. Just in the last year we have led campaigns against blockages to the Thames Path in Greenwich and to the Green Chain Walk to Bexley.
As well as campaigning the Ramblers, in partnership with Macmillian, also run Walking for Health – group walks of 1 to 3 miles that aim to get people who are currently inactive out walking. These are a crucial way of enabling people from all walks of life and backgrounds to get out, get active and improve their health.
Walking is a great way for people to interact with the city, and many short journeys that are currently made by tube, bus or taxi could be easily walked – why take the tube from Waterloo to the city when you can walk it along the Thames Path in 30 minutes past London’s famous landmarks? Just imagine the social, economic and environmental benefits of encouraging more people to walk instead of using over crowded tubes and buses.
More can and should be done to promote walking in London. Cycling makes the headlines and Boris has appointed a cycling tsar, but commuting by foot is undertaken by thousands of people each day and almost every journey starts and ends with a walk. Despite this walking enjoys little media coverage and is not really mentioned by our politicians. Walking needs to be championed, promoted and made safer – at a recent parliamentary committee it was suggested that pedestrian deaths in London were as high as cyclists.
Come and join us on a walk in and around London to see how great walking is. Ramblers Inner London area has 9 walking groups including a group that specialises in short walks (the London strollers) another for people in their 20’s and 30’s (the Metropolitan walkers) and those in their 40s and 50s (the Capital walkers) as well as 6 walking groups covering all the Inner London boroughs. You can find out more about us on our website.
In an age of austerity and localism Sustrans DIY Streets projects allow communities to develop affordable solutions to make their streets safer and more attractive places to live. The DIY Streets project in Haringey, which ran from 2010 – 2012, led to a 10% average reduction in traffic volume at monitoring sites; a 23% increase in traffic travelling 20mph or less; a 61% increase in residents who felt the street was attractive and a 34% increase in residents who felt the street is place to socialise.
We hope you can join us for July’s Street Talks when Ben Addy, who leads Sustrans DIY Streets work in London, will explore how local residents and other partners can work together to create high quality urban environments that promote sustainable travel and are safe and pleasant to live in and visit.
Upstairs at The Yorkshire Grey, 2 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8PN at 7pm on Tuesday 2nd July 2013 (bar open from 6pm).
Ben Addy is the London Communities Manager with Sustrans. He is responsible for managing the Communities projects in London – including DIY Streets and Pocket Places. Prior to his current role, Ben delivered a two-year DIY Streets project in Turnpike Lane, London Borough of Haringey. Ben has an MA International Studies from the University of Denver and has extensive experience working on social justice projects and campaigns in both Europe and North America.
Many different factors – topographical, historical, economic, social, demographic and political – have contributed to the borough of Hackney becoming arguably the most liveable in London. We hope you can join us for Street Talks in June when Trevor Parsons and Vincent Stops will explore these factors, outline the many problems and constraints which still remain, and discuss strategies for overcoming them.
Upstairs at The Yorkshire Grey, 2 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8PN at 7pm on Tuesday 4th June 2013 (bar open from 6pm).
Vincent Stops has been a councillor in Hackney for 11 years. For two he was the lead member responsible for transport, streets and environment issues. For the last seven he has been the Chair of Planning. During all that time Vincent has promoted the benefits of a great public realm, great built environment and the importance of bus, cycle and walking. Vincent has worked in transport policy for several years.
Trevor Parsons lives in Hoxton and tinkers with computers. He became involved in his local London Cycling Campaign group when it appealed for help in the struggle against the building of the M11 Link Road. He has remained active at the borough level ever since, and claims the first use of the word ‘permeability’ in relation to planning for cycling.
A brief (and over simplified) history of transport and the city
Cities have always been shaped by transport, while the planning and design of cities impacts on transport choices. The first cities were inherently walkable – the primary mode of transport was people’s feet and cities were necessarily compact in size and form as a result.
Public transport allowed cities to grow well beyond a size that would allow a person to comfortably walk from one side to the other. The expansion of train, tram, bus and tube lines helped suburbia spread, but the component parts of suburban growth remained walkable – homes needed to be within walking distance of train stations, tram stops, bus routes, shops and services. Today we’d say that cities were expanding through ‘transit orientated development’.
Mass private transport came in the form of the bicycle, which enabled people to travel further for journeys not served by public transport, bringing new personal freedom of movement that helped whet the appetite for the even greater freedoms promised by the car.
Aspirations towards car ownership were matched with aspirations towards home (and garden) ownership. After the Second World War rising car ownership freed developers from the need to provide easy access to public transport. Shops and services no longer needed to be within walking distance. Aggressive lobbying by car manufacturers, government investment in road building, and changes in planning policy and development economics all helped fuel the rise of the car as the transport mode of choice.
Now those who live in suburbia have little choice but to drive – trapped in a vicious cycle of car dependency as the separation of land uses continues to place jobs and services beyond the reach of those on foot, while low densities make the running of decent public transport nigh on impossible – and most people looking for a new home have little choice but to buy in suburbia.
Of course, it wasn’t just suburbia that was being shaped by the car. In existing urban areas perfectly functional buildings and even neighbourhoods disappeared under the wrecking ball to provide the road and parking space necessary to bring the car into the heart of the city.
The problem with cars
The negative impacts of our love affair with the car have long been acknowledged. As have the difficulties of trying to do anything meaningful to address them. In 1960 the Ministry of Transport commissioned a team led by Colin Buchanan to look at the problem, resulting in the publication of Traffic in Towns in 1963. 50 years on the project steering group’s famous acknowledgement that, “We are nourishing at immense cost a monster of great destructiveness. And yet we love him dearly…” still rings true.
Undoubtedly many people still aspire to car ownership, or view owning a car as essential to maintaining a high quality of life. And who are we to deny them? Engines keep getting more efficient and electric cars will help wean us off carbon dioxide emitting toxic fossil fuels. What about those self-driving cars we keep hearing so much about? Aren’t they going to use road space so efficiently that congestion will be a thing of the past, along with crashes? Perhaps, but what kind of city do we want to live in? One where everyone zooms about in their own metal box, completely removed from their fellow citizens? Ask anyone how they think their city can be improved and the answer is unlikely to be more cars – self-driving or otherwise.
Technology may soon address the problems of the internal combustion engine and the contribution that car travel makes to carbon emissions and air pollution; but technology alone can’t solve the myriad of other negative impacts of car dependency that are neatly summarised in the diagram below from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s report The Urban Environment. Tackling carbon emissions and air pollution is an essential task, but it’s not the only task – the big villain isn’t the internal combustion engine, it’s the car. As Taras Grescoe argues in Straphanger, “The automobile was never an appropriate technology for [cities]. As a form of mass transit for the world, it is a disaster.”