Tremaine Bilham says communities can feel empowered through improving their communities
The last century has seen car ownership become the norm. With that, streets have changed from this connective tissue of communities to large, vascular routes helping to enable a steady flow of motor traffic.
This has impacted on the way we use our streets, from the way we travel, to where we and our children spend time and our health and wellbeing.
Our streets should be more than carriageways for vehicles. They can be green corridors for urban wildlife, informal playgrounds for children walking home from school, and places where bumping into neighbours can turn them into friends.
Creating high-quality public spaces that prioritise people over cars can encourage people to take more journeys on foot, bike or other active transport modes, reducing their carbon footprint.
Something as simple as a bench can help to create a sense of place. It is somewhere to read a book or have a conversation with a friend. And when people spend more time on their streets, they’re also more likely to stop and shop, which is good news for local economies.
Sustrans Scotland’s Street Design team has been working directly with communities for over a decade, reimagining streets to create more liveable neighbourhoods for everyone.
Their approach hinges on involving communities from the beginning of the design process and the result is a legacy that extends far beyond the completion of the design.
By enabling communities to take an active role in developing their own ideas for how they want their neighbourhoods to look and feel, Sustrans’ Street Design projects empower local people to make improvements to their local area.
This also has the benefit of helping people play a more active role in their community after the project has ended.
A great example of this is in Dumfries. Taking part in on-street events and design workshops as part of the project inspired residents and businesses to work together and form a constituted community group that is still maintaining and improving their street environment to this day.
When streets are created for people rather than vehicles, they provide opportunities for better social connections, thriving local economies and more sustainable living.
More than that, giving people a say in the design of their streets can produce more active and empowered communities.
Applications for the Street Design Programme will open again in early 2020.
It is looking for applications from organisations that can demonstrate an identified problem to solve, aspirations, governance structure, and opportunities.To find out more, contact the Street Design team at Sustrans.
Tremaine Bilham is community engagement officer for the Street Design team at Sustrans Scotland