Making healthy streets for people

32% increase in respondents who feel the area offers space for socialising

64% of respondents felt road safety has improved due to the changes

65% of respondents have walked or cycled more as a result of changes in the local area

22 September 2016

We’ve been working with a community in east London on a project to make their streets heathier, safer, and to help get the community active. These projects are key to unlocking the health benefits that can come from living in a community that feels sociable, safe, and makes you want to spend time in your neighbourhood.

 We’re delighted that our first set of interim results already show residents are feeling the improvements.

- Matt Winfield, Deputy Director for Sustrans in London

This innovative two-year project combined community-led street design, behaviour change work and infrastructure improvements with the aim of increasing opportunities for walking and cycling. On behalf of the local authority we set out to address a number of challenges; a car-dominated environment, low levels of cycling, poor mental and physical health indicators and a lack of community empowerment.

The results were overwhelmingly positive:

  • 65% of respondents have walked or cycled more as a result of changes in the local area
  • 64% of respondents felt road safety has improved due to the changes
  • There was a 22% reduction in residents saying traffic speed is a problem
  • And a 32% increase in respondents who feel the area offers space for socialising.

We’ve been working with communities for several years on ‘placemaking’ projects. We see placemaking as turning a space into a place, transforming streets from places to pass through to places to be – places to socialise with neighbours, stop for a chat or go for a walk.

How can we make better places?

Our project lead, Louise Gold, has worked in Marks Gate for two years and she’s found that the best way to get innovative, effective designs is simple – ask the local community. They will know their neighbourhood, its pros and its cons, better than anyone.

She’s worked with thousands of local people during this project and has seen the area transformed in ways both big and small. Some were ‘quick wins’ that the community could implement themselves; shop shutters are adorned with paintings of birds and bees and butterflies can be seen flying over the perennials planted in the new DIY garden.

Bigger changes need long term collaboration

Sustrans has visually enhanced the area and more importantly it has given the community a chance to come together in Marks Gate. The streets are safer and the community is stronger.

- Councillor Sam Terry, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

Other ideas were bigger and needed long term collaboration between the community, us, Barking and Dagenham council, Transport for London and other partners. Mosaic flagstones, based on local school children’s designs, have been set into the paving along the High Street, Rose Lane, and around the entrances to the schools.

We’ve also been working hard to slow traffic in the area, particularly around the school, after we found that 85% of traffic was breaking the 20mph speed limit.

Getting people walking and cycling

One of the aims of the project was to get more local residents walking or cycling for every day journeys. This was done in ways you might expect - we set up a weekly women’s cycling session and have been running Bikeability training with children. But we’ve also been working on getting the community active by creating lively, social spaces where people want to walk or cycle.

Creating sociable spaces

By using our street kit (an interlocking set that can create temporary seating) we were able to experiment with the best places to put benches. Local residents were keen to create a more sociable space. On Rose Lane an amazing 73% of people say they met someone new while using the street kit.

We created a DIY garden and soon trees will be planted, further enhancing the sense of place and the pride that local residents feel in their community.

As a result of this amazing work done with and by the local community the whole area feels more attractive. It feels like a place you want to slow down and enjoy, whether that’s by stopping on one of the benches for a chat or by switching one of your everyday journeys to walking or cycling.

By working with the community to create a lively, social space we’ve seen a transformation in Marks Gate.

Find out how learning to cycle was uplifting for one Marks Gate resident.