The current pandemic has reminded us how important our local communities are. With the implementation of People Friendly Streets, Islington Council has a valuable opportunity to establish neighbourhood hubs, revitalise our local economy and social environment. Planters, bollards and seating used to close roads to through traffic can be strategically located to create outdoor space; safe places for residents to enjoy their neighbourhood, opportunities for businesses to thrive and school children to spend more time outdoors.
Restaurant hubs can become outdoor dining areas for residents to meet and relax, and for local businesses to thrive. Parklets or bollards positioned to reduce traffic can be designed to create safe outdoor space for socially distanced al fresco dining, away from the pollution and noise of traffic. Dining streets such as those implemented in Soho or on Northcote Road in Clapham have been hugely popular and proved to save local restaurant businesses, boosting the local economy during the pandemic. Having a policy to create more outdoor social areas that offer commercial opportunities would offer an invaluable lifeline to our local independent restaurants and pubs massively impacted by the pandemic.
Parades of local shops, such as those on Canonbury Place in the new Canonbury West low traffic neighbourhood, have an opportunity to benefit from the Pedestrian Pound. Seating areas, community boards, parklets and tree planting create social spaces that encourage local residents to visit and spend more time, using their local shops more frequently. Surveys show that shopkeepers often over-estimate the importance of drivers to their businesses. However evidence shows that creating areas designed for pedestrians can boost footfall and trading by up to 40% (Pedestrian Pound, FAQ: good for business). People who travel on foot or bike spend more money than those stopping by in their cars. This presents an opportunity for us to support our local businesses and help them bounce back from the pandemic.
Schools are at the heart of many communities in Islington. But all too often the school pick-up and pick-up is dominated by traffic. The recent implementation of 36 new School Streets has shown the positive impact of reducing traffic. More parents pick up their children by bike or walk, and stay longer to chat to other parents. Children are free from danger to play whilst waiting for older siblings to leave school and their exposure to pollution and the dangers of cars is significantly reduced. St Mary Magdalene Academy on Liverpool Road is opposite a large open green space. Separated by fast lanes of busy traffic the Church gardens are under utilised. By creating a traffic filter at this spot, with parklets and seating, it would visually extend the park space and create a safe place for pupils to cross the road and enjoy the park gardens before or after school. The mental and physical benefits of Islington school children having easy access to green spaces are huge. There are many other schools in the borough that could benefit from improved access to a park or green space opposite their site including St Andrews Primary School, Thornhill Primary School and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.
We have come to accept that cars, lorries and motorbikes dominate our roads, but Low Traffic Neighbourhoods offer us the chance to re-imagine our streets and community spaces. The council has an opportunity to revitalise our local environment by designing community spaces into its People Friendly Streets scheme and bring many benefits to residents, businesses and school children. If you are unsure about the benefits of People Friendly Streets scheme, think of a cafe, pub, restaurant or shop near you that could benefit from healthy outdoor space, without the pollution, noise and stress of road traffic, it may allow you to value and enjoy your local shops, rather than rushing in and out to buy a pint of milk and scurry home.
Published in Islington Tribune on 20 November 2020