Last year I wrote for 'Push Bikes' about the wonderful 'Playing Out' street project which continues to be a catalyst for residents all around the country to temporarily close their residential street from motor traffic. Birmingham City Council formally adopted the concept within the Wellbeing Service and called it 'Active Streets'. "Active Streets is about challenging the perception that streets are nothing but highways and demonstrating their possibilities as social spaces for everyone.".... "We help you to 'close your road" and transform "your local road or street into a safe, vibrant community space for a few hours at a time - completely free".
At Push Bikes we feel this initiative gives people the opportunity to reclaim their streets as places. The street can become a public space where people can meet, talk, play, and all members of those communities can walk and cycle safely. "Up until the 1970's, street play was very common - 71% of children in the 1970's played out in the street, compared to only 21% of children today."
In London, they have taken the concept of street closures one step further with the Mini Holland projects. Last year, on behalf of Push Bikes I went visit Walthamstow to take a look. Then a few weeks ago, as part of a filming project for a documentary on pollution, the filming production company took me down to see the scheme a further year on. At Push Bikes we are making a campaign which proposes that Mini Hollands are trialled in areas such as Kings Heath and Moseley etc to see how they can make our residential streets safer and less polluted.
'Mini Hollands' - Background
In 2014 Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor of London announced a competition for outer London Boroughs to bid for a £100 million to transform major town centres into areas ideal for cycling. The name 'Mini Holland' coined because the design ideas were to be inspired by continental European design approaches. The Three boroughs who won the Mini Holland Bid were Waltham Forest, Enfield and Kingston. Each borough received £30million.
Walthamstow Mini Holland
Walthamstow is seen to be the most successful Mini-Holland. On my first visit I met with with two members of the Waltham Forest Council Team who walked me around the main scheme. It was mid-way through the construction phase and the rest of the infrastructure works were due to be completed by 2018. To anyone who knows Walthamstow or any London borough then you may imagine the congestion that residents and communities were faced with. Some of the 'rat-runs' along residential streets were taking in region of 4000 vehicles per day, next to schools, houses, parks and businesses. The roads were hostile to anyone not in a car, and congested to anyone in a car or public transport. The environment did not allow for safe, easy or enjoyable alternative travel options, and this a key point if we wish to reduce congestion and pollution, enable healthier lives and create democratic streets.
The key elements of a Mini Holland scheme are as follows:
- Divert all through motor traffic onto major roads.
- Block through motor traffic on residential and minor roads using bollards and planters. This prevents rat running but allows residents to park outside their house.
- Provide plenty of secure on street bike parking via bike hangars and add bike stands to within 50m of every shop.
- Create safe segregated cycle lanes on the major roads.
- Reduce the number of parking spaces on high streets and create pedestrianised areas where possible.
- Introduction planting to improve the visual appearance of the neighbourhood and add benches to enable people to rest and spend time in their neighbourhood.
The residential streets have been transformed into places where people can walk easily, children can play in parks which open directly onto the street and people can cycle without fear of speeding motor vehicles.
This bold type of infrastructure is what our communities really need to implement if we are to create positive change in Birmingham. For too long we have accepted that our streets need to be laid out as they are. Yet in other countries they have not allowed the motor car to dominate their towns and cities. People have convenient and safe routes to cycle which is really the key to Holland's cycling success. People from 8-80 years old are able to cycle anywhere in Holland and this infrastructure therefore provides elderly people with increased independence and parents are free from the school run as soon as their children can cycle themselves to school. At Push Bikes we are applying pressure to Andy Street, Birmingham City Council and Transport for West Midlands to be the next region outside of London who adopts this principle! We encourage you to sign our new petition and share it with others to show your support for change!