On March 18th we gathered for the sold out Living Streets Walking Summit. This was held at the corporate Bloomberg Offices in Finsbury Square but was very much a grassroots event.
The big coup was Jeanette Sadik-Khan, former Transport Commissioner to Mayor Bloomberg, who took the floor alongside Deputy Mayor for Transport Val Shawcross and newly appointed Walking and Cycling Commissioner Will Norman.
Jeanette set the scene by making grassroots campaigning central to her talk: ‘Advocacy creates the political space for radical policy and action’ she proclaimed, adding that there is a ‘great hunger for space and play’ in our cities; we just need to ‘follow the people’ and ‘get obstacles out of their way’.
Her experimental approach in New York with paint, cheap beach chairs and temporary road blocks and cycle lanes, is still inspiring cities around the world.
Val Shawcross followed, setting out the Healthy Streets approach to making London a healthier, more beautiful and liveable city. Val urged campaigners to ‘engage with your local councils’ by inserting practical ideas into prospective councillors manifestos for the coming local elections in May 2018. She believes campaigning makes a difference; it is not always immediate but it does shape politicians views.
It was a shame that Val and Will did not stay for the afternoon session. Riccardo Marini of Gehl Architects gave a passionate plea for ‘creating a happy city’ by putting ‘people not business first’ He believes data and evidence should be qualitative as well as quantitative; reflecting human-scale cities where people not cars are central to planning.
Tompion Platt, Head of Policy and Communications. echoed that sentiment when he set out Living Streets blueprint for change ‘Walking Cities; designed around people, not cars.’
Morag Rose, from Manchester, was the inspiring winner of Living Streets Charles Maher award for her Loiterers Resistance Movement. ‘This is for everyone who walks in a wobbly mischievous manner ….access for disabled people must be central to all design’
However it was The President of Living Streets who made the most prescient comment when he talked about releasing children from the ‘bondage of being driven’.