Islington has seen great change during the current pandemic, with offices, shops, restaurants and other businesses forced to close, and many of us working from home. With more of us spending time locally, now is a great time to consider how our streets can be a resource for all residents, especially those most in need.
On successful city streets, as author Jane Jacobs argued, "people must appear at different times". More human interaction helps to reduce crime, while mixed-use neighbourhoods also engender trust, since neighbours get to know each other more easily. We already know this human interaction is promoted by reducing motor traffic, as we have seen here in Islington with the St Peter's People Friendly Streets scheme. This human contact is vital in tackling isolation and building strong communities.
To allow more space on our streets for people, we must now look at the single greatest consumer of that space: Parked cars. Parking spaces are rented at far less than true value in Islington, and sometimes at zero charge, even though drivers are a more wealthy minority of residents. The motor cars stored on our streets are unused for 98% of the time and all the while they depreciate in value.
Instead of subsidised vehicle storage, we can instead add value to our streets, with uses such as pocket parks, coffee bars, vegetable patches, shady trees, or simply benches to sit and chat which are especially appreciated by our elderly and disabled.
Current changes to reduce car use, supported by local residents (#lowtrafficislington) will allow more scope for reducing the enormous area devoted to parking (7,900 acres of London land worth £172 billion) and to repurpose this land to the benefit all residents. This will reduce pollution, tackle inactivity and obesity, promote community cohesion, and help to address the most urgent issue of our age, the Climate Crisis.
"When you change the street, you change the world" (Janette Sadik-Khan)
Published in IslingtonTribune on 1 April 2021