On the blogroll here you’ll see you a link to a site called DIY Streets.
This is a frankly fantastic project that I’m tremendously lucky to be involved with in my very own neighbourhood, Turnpike Lane, North London.
It’s funded, I think, by Haringey council, but facilitated and powered by Sustrans, a charity interested in promoting sustainable transport, and involved in all manner of community programmes tangential to getting people walking, cycling, and generally out of their car.
I’m not anti-motor, but this project they’ve initiated in my neighbourhood is absolutely wonderful. Their remit is to engage the residents in a process of identifying the key problems in the community, and working together to find imaginative, sustainable solutions. This might over anything from heavy traffic, speeding, dumping, loitering – all the grubby stuff that spoils an otherwise nice area.
The Sustrans team have done stuff like this before. Here’s a film of the project run around a street in Hackney
This is the first time they’ve attempted a whole neighboorhood, though.
I’ve jumped into it, as it’s a chance to meet people who live around us, get involved in making the neighbourhood nicer and safer, and beyond that have a play with some of the ideas that I’ve been coming across recently through work, and in the kind of territory this blog is interested in.
Because, fundamentally, a project like this cannot get off the ground if people don’t give it a go. Similarly, when working out what it is you want to change, and how to do it, you start to come into the territory of persuasion.
A group of people can very easily fall into Nimbyism, which has been a little bit depressing, but kind of expected. Getting people to realise that the obvious solutions (CCTV, speeed bumps, more signage) are not the right interventions to make has been sometimes tough, too. You don’t create change in a physical environment by telling people what to do, or what not to do.
You create it by using the structure of the environment itself – changing the street furniture to change the way people drive through the space, putting up trees and plants that are obstructive to enclose the area, demarcating gateways and the definitions of the area, installing things that actually need looking after, so it brings people out of their houses and into the external environment.
You need to be imaginative and, yes, creative
Speed cameras are only half as effective as the speed limit signs that flash at you when you’re driving past them. The financially punitive deterrent is weaker than the smiley face asking nicely to slow down.
How exciting to have a community project where these ideas can be tested out to see what happens.