We know the environmental, social and economic reasons for creating people-friendly, ‘liveable’ places. The last century has seen a significant rise in car ownership, resulting in cars becoming a dominant presence on our roads, impacting the way we use our streets and how we move around our local neighbourhoods. As a result, we are often left with congested neighbourhoods, poor air quality and uninviting public spaces.
Our streets should be more than carriageways for vehicles, and our cities should place people at its very heart, supporting and enhancing the lives of the communities they serve.
Making a street, a neighbourhood, or a shopping district serve everyone’s needs will mean creating more space, more time, more greenery, less stress, and higher quality of place-making. It will mean creating places that people want to be in, rather than briefly pass through.
Liveable Neighbourhoods and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are about reclaiming the streets for people and bringing life back into local communities. The removal of through-traffic provides the opportunity to open up public spaces for people to walk, wheel, cycle, play and socialise safely, creating neighbourhoods that have social connection at their heart.
Across 12 UK cities, 55% of people from ethnic minority groups, 38% of people at risk of deprivation, 36% of women, and 31% of disabled people who do not currently cycle would like to start
True collaboration is at the centre of achieving this vision. When making changes to our streets and spaces, we have to ensure that local context is considered, the community are involved and engaged and the very essence of what makes a neighbourhood unique remains a guiding principle.
More importantly, in order to create a truly liveable neighbourhood, it is vital that the views and needs of the community’s most marginalised groups are heard and reflected in the process, as they are most often hardest hit by the consequences of car-centric urban planning, including dangerous levels of air pollution, road accidents, health inequalities and the climate crisis.
When entire communities are consistently left out of the transport planning process, the way in which they use and move through their streets are significantly impacted.
Data from Sustrans' Cycling for Everyone report, released in partnership with Arup, highlights inequalities within cycling participation in urban areas between different demographics, including those from ethnic minority groups, women, disabled people, older people, and those at greater risk of deprivation.
Whilst London has made great progress in making cycling a safer option for millions of people, this growth isn’t necessarily equal. Specifically, those from ethnic minority groups, people on low incomes, disabled people and those over the age of 45 are less likely to cycle than other Londoners. 1 2 Despite this, however, huge numbers of people from all backgrounds want to cycle. Across 12 UK cities, 55% of people from ethnic minority groups, 38% of people at risk of deprivation, 36% of women, and 31% of disabled people who do not currently cycle would like to start 3.
Involving these underrepresented voices in the consultation, planning and design of liveable neighbourhoods, can ensure that streets are designed with all users in mind. It is this combination of local knowledge, the experiences of those usually unheard in transport planning, and the expertise of transport, planning and design professionals that can work to make truly equitable and liveable towns and cities.
Daisy Narayanan is Director of Urbanism at Sustrans
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