Living Streets conference

Living Streets (Twitter | Facebook) held a conference on 22 June. Interesting programme, effectively tweeted at #lsconf (with presos to follow, a Storify, video, notes, guidance on campaigning | street reviews – all here), culminating in a walk.

Don’t miss Living Streets‘ homepage feature for the homesick – pop in your postcode for a view of your street:

my former home on a typically grey day

my former home on a typically grey day

Following Making noise for greater pedestrian priority (preso) on Living Streets’ work the keynote address was given by Peter Jones (UCL) with the theme: from urban roads to living streets:

  • member of  the Roads Task Force (London)
  • most ‘roads’ are streets with multiple functions – about much more than vehicle movement;  hence road/street design needs a more balanced approach
road functions

screenshot from Peter Jones’ slides – click for full size

  • quality of public realm and street experience crucial to a city’s image
  • street use varies, is enjoyed more if the furniture footprint is right, eg space round benches, cycle racks; research findings (see slides) on signal removal, bus usage
  • research gap on pedestrians, plus no success metrics for street activity such as browsing, the liveability or sociability of streets (social capital), no performance or modelling standards
  • ‘living streets’ about much more than pedestrians – work needs to be holistic, not modal (current balance of attention: cycling 80%, walking 15%, street activity 5%)
  • public realm more valued now but advocates and campaigners crucial to getting it up the agenda
  • developers and retail increasingly interested – improvements to public spaces can improve retail sales by 30% and retail footfall by 10-25%; pedestrians and cyclists are better customers and spend more than people arriving by car
  • holistic approach needed to redesigning streets – current balance approx 80% cycling, 15% walking, 5% street activity; perils of shared space, differs in effects, but best when peds dominate and road space is reclaimed from motor vehicles
  • lack of street space in UK cities – in France road lanes often far more narrow – fairer share
  • recognition needed that streets are places – change of emphasis needed to raise quality and foster activity; support from health, developers, retail…
  • streets need champions and custodians who cherish the diversity of urban streets and their functions

From the workshops:

  • What better streets can mean for health – improved streets most cost effective way of meeting several public health outcomes
  • Making the economic case for better streets and places (preso) – property values rise 21.7% – 24.2% following public realm improvements; more construction jobs than road/rail construction
  • Creating smarter crossings (notes) – campaign will look at how long people have to wait to cross and how long they have to cross (often not enough); also location, timing and design of crossings, the impact of road safety budget cuts eg on school crossing patrols; pedestrians get twitchy if made to wait more than 30 secs at a crossing (TfL max wait time 90 secs, DfT max wait time 120 secs); comparative data needed

A socme workhop (recording) looked at amplifying your campaign message and going beyond clicktivism – the resulting action still takes place in the real world. @lloyddavis gave an account of #WeWillGather, which I’ve previously been a bit sceptical about but makes sense in the context of organising without organisations and getting people to do the thing (or things) they care about. It’s about the connections rather than single issue pressure groups – there’s a lesson there for civil society in Denmark, dominated by associations for everything which can feel rather exclusive, not to mention troubling for those who are not joiners…

Reflections too on Twitter vs Facebook – the former is a big ongoing conversation you can tap into when you feel the need, eg listening in to events, which everyone can see, whereas FB is more closed, and for that reason better for more controversial and controlled campaigns.

Stories from the street – three campaigns which made a difference locally:

  • Getting consensus on ‘how to deal with rat-runs’ –  @Jon_events | preso
  • Campaigning for 20mph limits – @annasemlyen1, 20’s Plenty for us | Twitter
  • Inaccessible Unacceptable – Yvonne Scott (Percy Hedley Foundation) campaigning with a student council to secure accessible pedestrian routes; filmed an ‘awareness walk’ of potholes, pavements and parking to get the message across

Resources and campaigns on ‘street’ issues:

Couple of points from someone living in Denmark:

  • if Twitter best for campaigning where does that leave DK, where Facebook dominates? Giv et praj, a ‘tell us about it’ feature, is on my local kommune’s website (although not the home page, so you need to know it exists) – no open benefits from re/tweeting possible, compared to in the UK where councils are well aware things spread on Twitter
  • a couple of tweets mentioned the danger of the pedestrian voice being lost in the clamour for cycling – a focus on liveable streets for all is needed, with pedestrians/walking higher up the agenda – here in DK cycling is a holy cow, and I can’t think I’ve ever seen a mention of walking as a mode of transport, although there are a couple of posts on Copenhagenize.com – need to look at this issue more closely and without prejudice if poss, personally I frequently find cyclists a menace on CPH streets, although bike racks (and misplaced bikes) are great for the dogs to pee on – ooh! NYT article on too many bikes in Amsterdam
  • event as a whole took me back to my CLES days – working in comms there now would be a very different job!
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