How can councillors deliver streets for people?

By Matt Winfield,
speakers at streets for people event in London

Panellists take questions, from L-R, Cllrs Kevin Davis, Adele Morris, Clyde Loakes and Feryal Demirci

attendees of streets for people event in London

Councillors attending our 'Streets for People' event on Tuesday 12 June

On Tuesday 12 June we welcomed councillors from all four corners of London to New London Architecture (NLA) at the Building Centre to hear about what they could do to create streets for people. Below we share some of the key takeaways.

Key Takeaways

There is major potential for active travel in London

The capital might be big, but the journeys Londoners are making are not. For example, nearly half of all the car trips made by Londoners could be cycled in just ten minutes and more than a third of car trips could be walked in under 25 minutes. There is clearly enormous potential for active travel in every borough of London.

Boroughs have opportunities to fund Streets for People

With around two billion pounds set aside for their Healthy Streets Portfolio, Transport for London are making sums available to boroughs. Both through partnership projects such as Liveable Neighbourhoods, Strategic Cycle Routes, Quietways, Safer Junctions and Cycle Superhighways and through the direct borough transport funding, known as Local Implementation Plans.

London has tried and tested examples to learn from

It no longer requires a journey across the North Sea to see great examples of streets for people. Boroughs in London have shown what can be done. The North-South Cycle Superhighway in central London, for instance, whose cycle counters clocked one million users after five months or the Walthamstow Village scheme that shed 14,500 vehicles a day from a neighbourhood's streets. Visiting these schemes to experience them in real life is highly recommended. And while there are great examples, the job is far from done.

Delivering requires collaboration and communication with communities

A clear emphasis of our speakers was on the importance of dialogue with communities, of which three themes stood out:

1. Collaboration and engagement:

Community collaboration over the design and further measures is vital. It gives ownership of elements a scheme to local residents and businesses. But primarily it makes sure that designers identify problems people want solving.

2. Language:

While two-way communication is important, the language is too. Instead of ‘cyclists’, ‘motorists’ and ‘pedestrians’, talk about people cycling, people walking or people driving and focus on the benefits of the schemes, not the mode of transport behind the funding.

3. Determination:

Changing streets and how people can use them requires determination. Delivering real change means confronting everyday behaviour that we take for granted – and this can be uncomfortable, heated and emotive. In the midst of this councillors should stick firmly with the evidence available, not fears of what might happen articulated by those who shout loudest. Trials and temporary arrangements help to test these assumptions in real life. You can always revisit schemes to improve them further. After schemes settle in you’ll also find the noise subsides and those who were against might even end up in support or even pleased with the results. Indeed, mini-Holland boroughs Enfield and Waltham Forest returned increased majorities at the local elections in May.

The results are worth it

Councillors are elected to act in the best interests of the communities they represent. Only a third of Londoners' journeys are made by car, yet all Londoners suffer from exposure to illegal levels of pollution and dangerous traffic that hinders active travel for all ages and abilities.

Streets for People already exist in London. In parts of Waltham Forest and Hackney, children are able to walk, scoot or cycle to school and even play out in streets free of through-traffic. In Kingston, Camden and on new Cycle Superhighways in Southwark and Westminster, families have the option to cycle thanks to the protection and separation from traffic and crossings that have been vastly improved along the way making our urban motorways a little more accessible to people walking.

For councillors and officers, the knowledge and experience is available on how to deliver them, so it’s time to get cracking.

We plan to host more learning opportunities for Councillors to help you along this journey to deliver streets for people.

Have an idea or topic to cover? Please let us know.

Have an issue in your ward or borough? Please get in touch if you would like to discuss.

Sign up for our monthly email for professionals – The Network.