Every street is also a place

By Finlay McNab,
sun beam in Rye Lane, Peckham

Sustrans have been using psychological traffic calming and place-making techniques, in association with other methods such as raising the road to slow traffic, for several years.

This approach aims to change the mindset of road users, and signal to drivers that they are in a different space, encouraging them to reconnect with their surroundings. They allow a more pleasant space for people travelling sustainably.

Every street is also a place.

These methods are proven to support a better balance of space between all users of the street, as covered in the Government’s important Manual for Streets which informs us that “every street is also a place.”

More than this, creating colour, shape and changing the physical environment has wider mental and physical health benefits: the psychology of putting paint on the roads is as much about creating social connections as physical ones.

Working hand-in-hand with the Peckham community over the last year, our local team have been reimagining underused spaces in the area. A number of temporary changes will inform more permanent changes, including community gardens and a new orchard.

One of these changes is the 'Rye Lane Sun', a temporary sun beam-shape, painted on the road on Rye Lane, Peckham.

Local residents told us they felt that the narrow, overcrowded pavements outside the Peckham Rye rail station meant they couldn’t walk, cycle or move around the space easily. The sun beam-shaped feature has been designed to increase driver’s awareness of their surroundings, the potential for pedestrians to be crossing at oblique angles, and to therefore encourage slower, more considerate driving styles.

The bright, colourful and fun design will add to the sense of place, and celebrate the diversity and vibrancy of the street.

The above video shows a street in Oxford, where a painted ‘street carpet’ was used to slow down speeding traffic and create a greater sense of place in a similar way. Rather than forcing drivers through physical features like speed humps, and making pedestrians feel that they can’t use the space, it makes them aware of their surroundings and the street as a place for people.

Continuing our work with local residents in Peckham, we’ll be asking what people think, and how pedestrians and drivers experience it. If the effects and feedback of painting the Rye Lane Sun are positive this could lead to a more permanent traffic calming method being implemented.

This may be something painted on the road, or could be similar to a raised surface that already crosses Peckham Hill Street, next to the library, where there is already a culture of motorists spontaneously giving way to pedestrians.

We hope that The Rye Lane Sun will give people an idea of what the changes might feel like in the area. This is an important step in making the local streets places to live and spend time in, rather than just travel (and often speed) through.

In places where the car used to dominate, they become places that belong to people just like you and me.