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High play neighbourhoods?

Most of the time Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are implemented by traffic engineers as an engineering problem, presented solely with the task of preventing motorised through-traffic. The materials used in response to this problem enable the narrative created by 'anti-LTN' lobbies of 'barriers' in the community -- because that is exactly what they look like.

A planter used as a traffic filer in the middle of a road, surrounded by bollards to stop the cars from mounting the pavement. Cars are parked on double yellow lines, children walk and ride thier bikes.
The vandalised filter on Rymers Lane, Oxford

What if the filters became gateways inviting people to connect and play on our doorstep?

On an image of Rymers Lane, at the speed bump, a colourful blue, yellow and red shed has been built but there are no sides on the road, allowing for a pencilled cyclist to move through the shed gateway. At the entrance there lies a large 'Welcome Home' mat, on the roof are directions Cowley 2mins (to the left), Oxford to the right. The shed has windows, with plants in the windows, and a bench running along the length of it, where a little girl is sat.
An alternative vision for Rymers Lane, Oxford

That was the vision behind artist and placemaker Nor Greenhalgh's reminaging of the traffic filters into something more playful, fun, making the most of a commuity asset. In another image, the filter was made to look like a car wash but for bikes.

What would the soultions look like if we ensured the brief for LTN design focused on our communities strength's and enabling the street's potential as social, rather than solely on its role as highway infrastructure?

I lived on th edge of, and within Oxford's Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. While surveys in the area constantly showed two-thirds majority support for the intervention, they were most popular in the Florence Park area. The reasons for this are complex, but one element I believe played a factor was that this area had be primed over pre-ceding years. Community engagement including 'Mini-Holland' fun days held by locally-led campaign group Oxfordshire Liveable Streets had warmed the area to the idea.

Projects like Low Traffic Neighbourhoods often move directly to infrastructure, without having first inspired the community. Under a temporary traffic order, the delivery of planters and bollards as quick, cheap alternatives to genuine redesign of the built environment make sense. But when they lack the support of activation that creates context for these changes and a wider narrative that demonstrates the freedom it will enable for residents as a community, the focus inevitably focuses on the freedom -- to drive wherever you please -- that it denies.

Modification must then go beyond filters and address the wider barriers people face in using the environment for movement. This social infrastructure falls in the gap of those who fund and design infrastructure and those who fund and deliver activation. Physical barriers might be tackled by seating, water-provision, toilets and social barriers can be addressed through design and activation like Safer Snickets in Bradford.

Consultation needs to go beyond the ‘technical’, legal, requires that see even in a 'co-design context, often means a commenting on blueprint in a community hall, orthe councils' new e-consultation platform. By using a pre-activation model, adding fun and play to consultation, we can ensure people have the context to reimagine their street as a place for their community, not just their car. Their street as a place to play, not just park.

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