Streets are public spaces that belong to everyone. Communities can decide the future of the places where we live and work by making changes to streets and neighbourhoods.
More than just a way of getting around, streets are what define and shape a place and are an essential part of community life. They have a big impact on the way we live, how active we are, how well we know our neighbours and our overall wellbeing.
When there were fewer cars on the road people regularly socialised and children played in their streets. But the increase in traffic has changed the way streets are used, often leaving communities and neighbours disconnected from one another.
We think neighbourhood streets should:
- Be safe places to walk and cycle
- Encourage people to socialise and children to play
- Be green, with space for plants and wildlife
- Reflect the character of a place and its people
- Offer places to sit, rest and relax…
If you feel your street could be better, we’ve got some tips to help you make changes to your street.
Easy ways to make changes to your street
1. Get outside
The simplest thing you can do is to get outside and start using the street. Speak to your neighbours, sit in the front garden, and use the space socially.
2. Report problems to the council
You can make a big difference to your street by letting the council know about anything that needs to be repaired. Fix My Street is a great way to report things like potholes, fly-tipping, broken paving or street lamps that don’t work.
3. Bring nature home by introducing plants and trees into your street
Trees can make a huge difference to your street. They are attractive, help to reduce pollution, attract wildlife, act as shade on a sunny day and can even provide edible fruit. And, because plants need regular care and attention they also provide a fantastic way for neighbours to get together and to stay involved. The Tree Council is a good resource to get you started.
For smaller spaces growing flowers, herbs and vegetables is a great way to bring some colour to your neighbourhood, and get people thinking differently about the space. This could be anything from plants on a windowsill to a community growing patch. For gardening tips head to the Royal Horticultural Society and for advice on growing food in urban environments try the Incredible Edible Network.
4. Campaign to reduce car speeds
Find out if where you live is implementing 20mph as the default speed limit in residential and urban streets. If not join the '20’s plenty' campaign.
5. Start a street art project
Public artwork is not only attractive, it will also make your street unique. It can also work as a method of ‘psychological traffic calming’. By narrowing and softening the street it can reduce forward visibility and give the message to drivers that they are in a space that is home for people, encouraging them to drive slowly and respectfully.
Some of you may have the artistic skills yourselves to create a sculpture or paint a mural. If not you could work with an artist who will interpret your ideas into a suitable piece for your street. Bear in mind that artwork can be expensive and it’s unlikely the council or other funders will pay for it so you or the artist will probably need to raise the money for it.
There are lots of creative ideas that people have tried on their streets to make them into more vibrant places. If you’re a big knitter try some guerrilla yarn bombing or you could organise for a street artist to do a mural, but it would be advisable to speak to your council first to seek permission. Painting your fence or garden wall can add instant vibrancy and change the feel of the whole street.
6. Space for children to play outside
Think about creating a specific space in which children can play independently and are able to express themselves freely. It can be as simple as leaving some space free to ride scooters and bikes or run around in.
Play features can be traditional play equipment like a slide and swings or less formal items such as large boulders to climb on or hopscotch painted on the ground.
Playing Out supports communities to close their street to cars so that they can be used by the whole community to play outside. They can guide you through the process to make sure you get the right permissions from your local council.
7. Organise a street library
Little Free Library is an American organisation which provides useful information on creating a street library. You could use an old phonebox or build something unique. We recently worked with the local community on the Walsall street library project.
8. Hold a community event
Events such as street parties are a great way to get to know your neighbours and have a fun day right on your doorstep. Holding an event is easier than you think, head to the Big Lunch, which has loads of great resources on how to organise one.
9. Somewhere to sit
Providing a seating area can make a big difference to how a street is used, and turn it into a fun, social space. This could be in your front garden just for you, or in a communal place for everyone! Street Seats has lots of inspiring ideas.
10. Share your ideas
Let us know what you’re up to – we’d love to hear about it. Make sure you share on our facebook page what you’ve been doing to improve your street.
Where to start
- Talk to your neighbours: Find out what they think about the street and whether they would be keen to get together to make changes.
- Find out what else is going on in your neighbourhood: There might be a local community organisation or Tenant and Residents Association. Your local council should be able to tell you what community groups are active in your area or try Streetlife who work to connect local people.
- Start small: Even the smallest changes, such as making a window box or planting daffodil bulbs on your street or can make a big difference to how a street feels.
- Continue to be inspired: If your small interventions get everyone excited and on board, why not think bigger?