How to redesign your street for people in five easy steps

Many of our streets feel like they're designed exclusively for cars - full of traffic jams or dominated by speeding traffic with little thought for pedestrians and cyclists. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can shape and enhance our existing streets to give everyone lively, walkable, community-friendly environments.

Streets make up 80% of open space in towns and cities, precious space that can be redesigned to benefit the whole community. Streets can be redesigned as places to enjoy the outdoors, socialise and play, as well as retaining their use as travel corridors.

An inspiring vision for streets

Redesigning streets is about considering the needs of all users and trying to serve them through the multiple roles that streets can play. Different ideas include thinking of the street a space for:

  • Walking: Think of the comfort, usability, and surroundings of people walking. Is it pleasant and safe? Are the lighting, pavement and crossings meeting the needs of residents? Is there any artwork such as sculpture or murals?
  • People: Is the street dominated by cars? Is there street furniture for people to sit on and socialise?
  • Play: Is the street safe for kids to play outside?
  • Greenery: Could the street have trees, plants and flowers to provide oxygen, colour and encourage wildlife?
  • Transportation: Can walkers, cyclists and motor vehicles all flow through the street safely and freely?

The five-step plan to help you redesign your street

Are you feeling inspired to make a change in your street?

We have developed a five-step system to help you reclaim your street and make it a safer, better place to live in and travel through.

Step 1. Bring people together

The most important thing to do if you’re interested in changing your street is to get your neighbours together to have a friendly chat about it. 

Improving your street will only work if there's interest and commitment from a number of like-minded residents. 

Choose a suitable meeting place, time and date to get people along. At the event, find out what people think are the most important issues and what they 'd like to improve most. We’ve come up with some simple ideas to get people thinking:

If people want to:

  • create places for children to play, you can organise a street play event or day 
  • reclaim the street for socialising, you can host a street party, picnic or barbeque
  • make the street more attractive, you can start with plants to add colour 
  • reduce car speeds, you can campaign for 20mph
  • clean up the street, you can organise a work party to litter pick or come together to report persistent issues to your council

Jot down your ideas and get agreement on which improvements to make in your street. Once you have a shortlist, set a date to have a planning session to discuss ideas in more detail.

Step 2. Organise a street planning session

If your neighbours are keen to work together then it’s a good idea to formalise your initial ideas and create a plan of action.

At your planning session you may want to consider:

  • Having a rough agenda. It’s useful for people attending to know how you plan to run the session and what the timings are.
  • How you will make decisions, such as a secret ballot or a show of hands.
  • Creating a plan of action. Write a plan of the things you would like to do, prioritising the most important tasks and assigning people roles and responsibilities.
  • Try it out. Before going official, why not test your idea? This will help you refine your proposal and make sure it is workable. For example, if you are thinking of planting an area add some pots to mark it out and check what the visual impact is.

Once you have a workable plan that everyone agrees with it’s time to make it happen! Make sure you give yourself enough time, it’s always a good idea to plan a few months in advance.

Step 3. Put your plan into action

Whatever you've decided to do to improve your street the next step is to decide on how you will run things, how you will fund the project and what permissions you may need to get. 

We’ve pulled together some useful resources and key things to consider to make sure everything runs smoothly.

  • Setting up as a community organisation. If you want to apply for community grants to run events or buy small items, you may decide to formalise your group with a legal structure.  
  • Funding: Download our fundraising guide for some useful tips on how to get started.
  • Licences: You may need a licence for some events and activities. For advice, and to obtain any licences contact your council’s licensing team.
  • Road closure: It is usually straightforward to organise having your street closed but you will need to apply to your council’s highways/traffic team 6-12 weeks in advance.
  • Insurance: Events that you run for residents are not considered public events so do not legally need to be insured.
  • Being considerate of others: Keep your neighbours up to date with what’s happening so that they feel part of the activity and any issues can be addressed in advance. 

Step 4. Get publicity for your redesigned street

Really proud of the changes you are making to your street? Why not share your success story and help inspire others? There are lots of ways to get local publicity.

  • Use the media and promote your event to local newspapers, community magazines and radio stations.
  • List your event in local ‘What’s on’ listings.
  • Tell your friends, family, colleagues and contacts know about your event. 
  • Speak to community groups about advertising your event in community newsletters and contact community groups such as the Scouts, local cycling clubs and the Women’s Institute asking them to promote it to their members.
  • Get photos and videos by asking someone to record your activities on the day.  
  • Tell us! We're really keen to hear about everything you are doing in your community to improve your street. Share your pictures on tweeter with us, or tell us about your project on our facebook page. 

Step 5.  Start thinking BIG

Temporary changes to streets are a great first step but there are lots of ways to make bigger changes to permanently improve your street. This could involve:

  • Physical traffic calming measures encouraging traffic to slow down.
  • Psychological traffic calming methods such as trees and artwork that reduce forward visibility, discouraging drivers from speeding.
  • Bicycle parking or cycle lanes to make the street more cycle friendly.
  • Benches and seating in place to make the street better for socialising.

Need some help getting started? Find out about our work with communities