Inspirational Places Create Inspiring Activities
Following hot on the heels of Leicester city’s triumphant premier league title win, the city played host to the Cycle City, Active City conference. Several of the JMP team attended and presented at the conference over the two days, and we were inspired not only by many of the speakers, but by Leicester itself.
Leicester showed what can be achieved when you combine strong leadership, positive decision making and belief in your projects and the keynote presentation from their elected mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby and a presentation from Louise Seymour, Head of Development Projects demonstrated this. They have revolutionised many of their public spaces, creating open, accessible and importantly, enjoyable spaces for all the residents and visitors to Leicester. One example of this is the demolition of the Belgrade Flyover (shown above), to be replaced by a green gateway to the city. This space is also now used for festivals and is creating fun and delightful experiences and helping to make Leicester a better place. In another bold move, Leicester replaced a public car park with a new city centre park, Jubilee Square, which was hugely controversial in the planning but has received no complaints since being implemented.
The theme of active placemaking became a consistent thread of the presentations at the conference, and the ability for cycling and walking schemes to deliver not just an increase in cycling and walking levels, but to make a positive change to the city by making streets more vibrant and attractive places to be. Kate Fillin-Yeh, Bike Share Programme Director of the US National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) emphasised the need to ‘Go for it!’ in order to create a momentum for change. She advised taking small, low cost steps to make temporary changes and to target areas where cyclists are already active at first, to generate enthusiasm amongst the community. These newly created spaces can inspire, and demonstrate the changes that can be made to streets and public spaces, and once the community can see how much their lifestyle can be improved, these changes can be made permanent. NACTO have created a series of design guides to help steer US cities to achieving these aims, and the statistics speak for themselves. A quoted statistic from one of the projects is that the streets have seen a 55% decrease in speeding over 30mph in eighteen months and bikes riding along the pavement down from 40% to less than 5%, proving that street design can change behaviour and encourage safer attitudes.
A recurring theme of this conference was the frustration that the Government’s recently published “Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy” contains a fantastic vision for boosting cycling and walking levels but virtually no funding. However, the focus on place making and the positive role that walking and cycling schemes can play in making cities more attractive and vibrant places to be may help galvanise support and funding from other sources such as Local Enterprise Partnerships who want to create better local places, where people will want to work and live. By ensuring that our walking and cycling initiatives emphasise quality of life and quality of place, perhaps we can draw in funding and support from broader stakeholders.
We always offer a joined up approach from strategy to delivery including overarching support on behaviour change for a whole place, as part of an overarching movement strategy.