On Friday 22 August our This Friday Presents… series looked at encouraging Active Travel in a community and heard from Paul Ruffles and Alex Bottrill of Sustrans and Nicola Atkinson of NADFLY about their award winning Street Design Project, which explores the relationship between place quality, community and active travel in residential areas of Scotland.
We spoke to Paul Ruffles of Sustrans before the event:
What is the Street Design Project and how did it come about?
Street Design is based on our longstanding work south of the border on the DIY Streets projects. Simply put we work collaboratively with communities and local authorities to make small changes to streets and neighbourhoods so that they can become better places to walk and cycle through, live, play and socialise on. With Street Design our aspiration is a balancing of quality in both the process and outcomes.
What lessons have you learned from working with communities on active travel projects?
Over the years I think there has been a slow incremental change in how we see streets and what we are willing to accept as normal. We’ve gradually allowed a ‘communal forgetting’ at the organisational and social level to happen so that things like walking, cycling, trees, grass, play spaces, benches and artwork have lost value and importance. Instead we have willingly taken on the notion that accessible car parking, traffic speeds and the freedom to drive down streets unhindered is something to be protected and cared for rather than balanced against the social benefits that can come from better quality sociable, spaces. It takes a lot of people time, creativity and investment of resources to bring people together and to generate a level of enthusiasm and vision that places can be different.
What would you like someone coming along to your talk to take away?
Streets are a fantastic shared resource that you can use as a catalyst to bring people together. Small positive changes to streets can contribute towards better quality places that do impact upon whether people walk or cycle, speak to their neighbours, socialise or play on them. However, the process of how you reach a point whereby you can make changes to a street is really important and needs as much consideration, flexibility and creativity as the design process.