London’s Do-It-Yourself Approach to Safer Streets
In the UK, the non-profit Sustrans is pioneering a community-based method to reclaim streets from high-speed traffic and make neighborhoods safer and more sociable places.
Called "DIY Streets," the program brings neighbors together to help them redesign their streets in a way that puts people, safety, and streetlife first. So far, individual streets have benefited from DIY redesigns in 11 communities in England and Wales. Recently Streetfilms got a walk through of one successful DIY project -- on Clapton Terrace in London. With the people who made it happen as our guides, we saw how planners and neighbors collaborated to transform a place where speeding used to rule into a local street with calm traffic and safe space to socialize.
Can the DIY model work on a bigger scale than an individual street? We're about to find out: Residents of the London Borough of Haringey will soon be working with Sustrans on the first neighborhood-wide DIY project.
Katherine Rooney: [00:02] The way we design our little residential streets has a massive impact on how we’re living our lives. I think, you know, a lot of the ills of society at the moment actually could be really changed if you could just put a bit of effort into making the area outside our front doors nicer. So with DIY Streets, we start with only really working with communities that want to work with us, we don’t want to go in there and try and force people to kind of engage in a consultation process if they don’t want to.
Garry Morris: [00:29] I think DIY Streets is a very good idea. It’s a very good idea to give residents ownership and also responsibility for this scheme.
Katherine Rooney: [00:39] In Clapton Terrace, the street that you’re visiting, is really beautiful. It’s an old Georgian terrace. The houses are big terraces, but a lot of them have, you know, three/four flats in them.
Lynn Altass: [00:48] We’ve got 80 dwellings in 17 houses here.
Katherine Rooney: [00:52] And it faces onto an open green area. On the other side of the green area there’s a very big main road which basically means loads of buses and loads of traffic.
Adrian Holliday: [01:02] The original problem was we had cars accelerating very fast down here. Neighbours were quite concerned.
Garry Morris: [01:09] I came on site and my initial view was, oh, one-way street. That’s a traffic engineer’s point of view. But having met the residents, we had more problems.
Lynn Altass: [01:19] We had the old black bins which everybody was just letting overfill. And even though we organised getting two collections a week, it was still a problem. So we talked to the Council through Sustrans, Do-It-Yourself Street thing to look at a different way of collecting our rubbish. So we’ve now got the rubbish at central points which are not on the pavements, so the pavement now looks like it should do. We’ve had a speed table put in. We’ve had a pinch-point put in so that people can’t go as fast along the Terrace. And it looks lovely and people are really pleased with it.
Speaker: [01:48] I think it’s lovely that we’re actually getting everyone together. Not many streets do this.
Katherine Rooney: [01:55] The residents there are really fantastic, really active, very vocal.
Speaker: [02:00] It was a mess and now it’s lovely.
Speaker: [02:01] Before the street was done up, no, I wouldn’t have let her walk even on the footpath because there was so much rubbish and everything lying around. But it’s a lot safer now. You’re able to see traffic before it comes onto the street so you can take her off and it’s definitely a lot child friendly.
Speaker: [02:18] I turned up here about ten or twelve years ago and I think since this DIY Streets, it’s brought everyone on the street together and now I’m sort of chatting to people. When I walk down the street I bump into people. It’s just made the place a lot less threatening.
Katherine Rooney: [02:35] So once we know the community wants to do it and the Local Authority are happy to do it, we then kick off with public meetings to make sure that as many members of the community are there as possible cos we really do go to them with a blank sheet of paper and say, what are the problems in your street? It’s really then a succession of public meetings, kind of consultation design meetings, where we take them through a process. Okay, so now we know these are the problem areas, let’s start to think about solutions. What we try and do next is what we call a street trial, so we actually go out to the street and lay out the changes with straw bales usually. So we do the street trial and sometimes that’s combined with a kind of street party feel, so we try and get more people out and about. The other thing about street trials is that we try and arrange for the fire engines to come and for the bin lorries to come, cos any changes that we make, those people still need to be able to get through.
Mark Holloway: [03:24] I’m just trying to get a feel for what other people have done. You know, what kind of things work, what kind of things don’t.
Alastair Hanton: [03:31] I think it’s just a marvellous scheme and it’s a tremendous example of community involvement.
[03:38] The pilot ended in March 2010. What we’d like to do
is do the same thing but on a neighbourhood scale, because what we were
doing was just on single streets, which is a much bigger project and
there’s many more members of the community to consult. So that’s
what we’re doing in Haringey in London for the next two years.
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