Featured

“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”

Isn’t that a quote from Back to the Future?

Yes, it is the last line of that time-travelling 1980s movie epic, but it also describes what our approach to 21st century travel could look like: instead of handing over most of our public realm to motorised traffic, we could allocate that space to parks, outdoor cafés and restaurants, public transport, walking and cycling, and public art. Creating places where people, live, work and thrive, not just drive through.

That still sounds like a Hollywood happy ending, not real life.

Not at all. Cities across the world are being re-designed for people rather than for cars: Melbourne started the trend with its vision for a 20-minute city; Paris is investing in the ’15-minute city’ or ‘La Ville Du Quart D’Heure’; and Barcelona plans to have 1/3 of its central streets car-free by 2030.

Melbourne’s 20-minute city
Paris’ 15-minute city

But those are big cosmopolitan cities outside the UK, would that work here?

It’s already happening. The flagship Low-Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) in England is the ‘Mini Holland’ scheme in Waltham Forest, London, and other examples are popping up all over the UK. Not to mention down here in Southampton.

Wasn’t ‘Mini Holland’ part of the inspiration behind Breathing Spaces?

When we started our community project in January 2019 we did not dare to dream that it could actually result in quieter streets and cleaner air. But last week (mid-November 2020) the first planters went in on a couple of streets in St Denys as part of the city council’s first Active Travel Zone. By closing roads to through traffic, they are becoming safer and more pleasant for everyone. Back in February we took a small group of people to Waltham Forest to experience low-traffic streets for themselves and now other residents can begin to do the same.

But an ‘Active Travel Zone’ sounds like it involves lycra and leisure centres.

It’s not about getting sweaty. This is just another name for a low-traffic neighbourhood, where motorised vehicles have restricted access, pavements are extended, and the area is made more pleasant with tree planting and artworks. The space is effectively given back to residents, who can still get to homes and local businesses by car, but rat-runners can no longer cut along residential streets.

The map below shows the plan for St Denys including the locations of modal filters. These are barriers in the street such as wooden planters and bollards, which allow cyclists and pedestrians to pass through, but not motor vehicles.

https://transport.southampton.gov.uk/transport-projects/st-denys-atz/

Why do we need low-traffic or 20-minute neighbourhoods?

“Our acceptance of the disfunctions and indignities of modern cities has reached a peak.”

Carlos Moreno, The 15-minute City

Air pollution, climate change, obesity, road traffic casualties, noise pollution, re-prioritising space during the pandemic – these are all big reasons why we need to transform our cities into places for people, not for traffic. But equally important are stronger community connections, child-friendly spaces and enabling people to get around quickly and safely on foot or by bike. There are also economic benefits for businesses that are located in low-traffic areas, such as Bedford Place in Southampton, as people who walk or cycle there spend up to 40% more than motorists.

How did they decide which roads to close?

It’s worth emphasising here that the roads are still open to cars, and to people on bikes, scooters, on foot or in wheelchairs, but have been closed off at certain points to deter rat-runners. A low-traffic neighbourhood is not the same as fully pedestrianised area (such as West Quay).

Residents of St Denys were invited to add suggestions to a Commonplace map and almost 1,000 comments were received. The council then ran 4 co-design workshops where residents were able to discuss and develop different options for redesigning their neighbourhood.

Won’t this mean more congestion on main roads?

This is one of the myths around LTNs, but recent research and traffic counts found that they do not actually cause traffic jams or disproportionately impact lower-income households.

Pop-up cycle lanes have also been causing concern, but the truth is that congestion is caused by too few cycle lanes, not too many. In Copenhagen, one of the premier cycling cities in the world, if a road is congested with motorised traffic, that’s when they add more space for bikes.

Cycling in Copenhagen – Martti Tulenheimo/Flickr Creative Commons

How long will it be in for?

Unfortunately, city traffic won’t disappear overnight. In order to see significant benefit, the measures should be in place for at least 12 months. This is roughly how long it takes for changes to bed in and for people to choose other ways of getting around. In St Denys, the modal filters are trials and their impact will be assessed after 6 months, when it is hoped they will be made permanent.

Recent research into all of London’s 10 LTNs advises that a year is needed so that their impact can be ‘disentangled’ from broader trends, for example, regional increases in traffic flow. This is especially important considering the £27billion that the Government is investing in new roads, compared with the mere £250million allocated to reducing car use. (By the way, you can help stop this massive road building programme by supporting this legal challenge).

“…as with any measure involving short-term construction or disruption, initial consultation responses may be skewed negative reflecting early disruption rather than benefits (for instance, until services like Google Maps are updated, drivers may continue to try to use ‘filtered’ streets, causing disruption as they U-turn to avoid the new restrictions)”

Rachel Aldred & Ersilia Verlinghieri, ‘LTNs for All? Mapping the Extent of London’s new Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods’

I want to live in a Low-Traffic Neighbourhood. How do I make it happen?

Glad you’re feeling inspired! Loads of suggestions on where to start are available here and here. Three key pieces of advice from us though:

  • Connect with others in your neighourhood who might also want to see change. It will spread the workload, you will make new friends, and it will be much easier to get widespread community support that way.
  • Discover what’s most important to your community – it’s probably not cleaner air, but rather: having places to sit and meet outdoors, being able to get to the shops easily or stopping people parking on pavements.
  • Talk to your local councillors and transport planning officers at the council about your ideas. If they can see that a movement for change is building, they will be more likely to support it.

However, grassroots projects and community building don’t have to focus on a whole area – why not just think about the street where you live? Setting up regular Play Streets for kids is one option. School streets are another great way of energising a community to think about safer, healthier streets. Southampton ones have had really positive responses so far.

What impact did Breathing Spaces have in St Denys?

We kicked off conversations about cleaner air & healthy streets through Clean Air Cafés and Open Streets events. The city council took notice and chose St Denys out of 85 other areas in Southampton for its pilot low-traffic neighbourhood because of the strong community buy-in. We were fortunate that our project was funded by Nesta, which meant that we were able to dedicate time and resources to hosting community conversations as well as collaborations with both Southampton Universities to monitor local air quality.

If you’re in favour of the changes you’re seeing in St Denys please do drop a line to council officers to let them know. It’s important that we show our support: traffic.orders.legal@southampton.gov.uk

Driving a car one kilometre costs society 89 cents – but cycling the same distance benefits society by 26 cents.
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/gallery/2018/jun/11/copenhagenize-case-urban-cycling-graphs

Main image: Car-free Earth Day 2018, Herald Square, New York City – New York City Department of Transportation, Flickr Creative Commons

Featured

Kids need clean air

Image: Nathan Evans https://n-evans.com/

I know air quality is not great – but is this image really necessary?

I’m afraid it is. The children of Southampton deserve to breathe clean air but we are putting them at risk of growing up with stunted lungs, asthma and leukaemia. We are all affected by air pollution, but children are much more vulnerable because they breathe more rapidly and so absorb more pollutants in their growing bodies.

Air pollution in our city comes from many different sources. The most visible offenders are cars, vans and trucks. Unfortunately, young children and babies in prams are more exposed to toxic exhaust fumes as they are much closer to ground level. The good news is even small improvements in air quality can have a positive impact on children’s health. For example, in Southampton, just a 20% reduction in air pollution would mean 150 fewer children suffering from low lung function.

I thought air pollution only affected the lungs?

Toxic air has been shown to affect every single organ in our bodies, causing a range of illnesses from diabetes to brittle bones. Tiny particles of metal have even been found in the heart of a 3 year old, showing that we are already putting our children on track for heart disease in later life. Fine particles can also get into our brains, leading to dementia, depression and an inability to concentrate. Or to put it another way, cleaner air can actually help our kids to be happier and do better in school.

This is really worrying. As a parent what can I do about it?

You’re not alone – 60% of parents are concerned about the impact of air pollution on their children and there are a number of ways you can take action. In Southampton all schools have been invited to apply for help in managing the school run through ‘School Streets’. These involve timed road closures, sometimes with bollards, which stop vehicles from accessing roads outside schools during drop-off and pick up times. If your school hasn’t signed up yet, why not see if there is support for starting up something in September?

School Street at St John’s School in Southampton. Image: MyJourneySouthampton

You can also open up other streets in your community by organising a Play Street with your neighbours. After months of being shut inside during the lockdown, providing kids with safe outdoor places to play, just outside their homes, is going to be essential. To find out more, a fantastic workshop on safer streets is now available to watch here.

But it’s not safe for my kids to cycle to school, I’d rather drive them there

Having a high volume of cars on the roads makes it dangerous for everyone to get to school. But there is safety in numbers – the more people that walk, cycle or scoot, the safer our streets will become. Southampton residents can now make suggestions for improving city streets on an online map and request local traffic filtering. Many schools are offering bikeability training and incentives for active travel. Ultimately we need to change the way society sees the school run. We think it’s unacceptable to smoke in front of our children, so why is it OK to drive dangerous polluting vehicles right up to the school gates?

OK, but I need to get to work, there isn’t an easier way to get the kids to school

We hear you. The burden is mainly on women to do the school run and as a society we need to start to talk about how to bring more equality to this, and all other aspects of childcare. More people have started working from home since lockdown – perhaps this can be the start of a discussion of how we structure our work and home lives so that the school run can be both more equitable and sustainable.

What’s the impact of School Streets on their communities?

Amazingly positive! From 4 trials in Southampton92% of respondents strongly agreed or agreed that the road felt safer to use” and almost everyone wanted them to happen more regularly.

And did you know, having several School Streets in one area can actually make traffic evaporate? A study in Edinburgh across nine primary schools resulted in two thirds of car trips disappearing altogether. This is because in low-traffic neighbourhoods people make different choices about getting around, no longer relying on their cars. Safer streets, stronger communities and happier children are all within our reach.


We are really excited to present the ‘Air Pollution Breaks Hearts’ artwork above, created by Nathan Evans as part of our RSA-funded pilot project looking at arts engagement for cleaner air. The original plan was to explore engagement via bus shelters but the change in public transport use during the pandemic has meant we’ve had to rethink things a little.

Build Back Better

Image: ‘Neighbourhood irrigation – Yau Hoong Tang / Flickr Creative Commons

Now that the lockdown is beginning to ease, instead of noticing the tropically blue skies and birdsong, we are watching the cars take over our streets again. And as the 1st of June rolls around, those of us living near primary schools are wondering whether the pavement parking and idling vehicles will appear again with the madness of the school run. Our world is reverting to a congested ‘business as usual’ scenario but can we not find another way of living?

Over the past 10 weeks taking daily exercise has for many of us meant walking or cycling along beautifully quiet streets. Often we wandered down the middle of these empty roads, not only to keep the required distance from others on the pavements, but because we could. Initially done out of politeness, it then felt like an act of civil disobedience if no-one else was around, but soon it began to feel normal.

And this is what we need. Strolling along our roads – the massive amount of public space given over to traffic – should become the new normal, quite simply because it is a question of public health. We need to maintain physical distancing during the ongoing pandemic – new maps show that there is not enough pavement space in the UK to ensure that pedestrians can remain 2 metres apart. We must also continue to reduce air pollution and road traffic fatalities.

It is also a question of our mental health – less traffic means less stress and noise pollution – as well as the health of our communities. During the lockdown we have been drawing chalk rainbows on pavements, taking part in sing-alongs out in the street and chatting with our neighbours across the way after the weekly clap for carers. Sadly, streams of cars will have a negative impact on those new neighbourly interactions.

Less traffic = more community interaction, on both sides of the street. Image: Donald Appleyard

Luckily there is already momentum for change in our city with increased numbers of people commuting by bike, which is being supported by the council’s brand new pop-up cycle lanes and the grassroots campaign for Safer Streets in Southampton. Can we use this new-found love of two wheels to transform our urban spaces into places for people, not cars?

Image: @WHolmes99 via Twitter

Of course some urban transformations are already in the pipeline. An Active Travel Zone is being planned for St Denys, following extensive conversations with residents on what this low-traffic area might look like. Some locals have been concerned about traffic being pushed elsewhere but the experience in other cities is that motorised traffic actually ‘evaporates’ in low-traffic neighbourhoods.

The current phrase that encapsulates all these ideas is ‘Build Back Better’: using the immense change wrought by the lockdown to create spaces which actually improve our wellbeing and protect our natural environment. This future thinking is fantastic but something more fundamental is at stake here too. Societies are often judged on how they look after their most vulnerable members – for example, children, the elderly, those with health issues and residents living in more deprived areas. If we re-design our city with their needs in mind, we will all reap the benefits, and it will show that we value everyone in our communities, not just those able to jump out of the way of speeding cars.

[Header image: Neighbourhood irrigation – Yau Hoong Tang/FlickrCreativeCommons]

The quiet streets of London

Where in the UK can you wander round streets re-designed for walking and cycling? The ‘Mini Holland‘ scheme in Waltham Forest, London E17, is one such place – you can wander down the middle of long roads with barely any traffic; listen to the birds singing and children playing in playgrounds far away from busy roads; check out pastel-coloured cycle frames in on-street bike hangars; and marvel at the politeness of drivers who move their vehicles slowly and wait for you to cross the street.

We took 14 Southampton residents on a tour of this low-traffic neighbourhood in February and our guide was Paul Gasson of Living Streets. He was a goldmine of information on modal filters, walking and cycling statistics, and bold council actions for healthier communities. He showed us quiet residential streets which used to have thousands of cars passing through every day, community art, a cycle parking hub next to the station, outdoor community spaces, a cycle superhighway, wildflower planters tended by residents, sinusoidal speed bumps and Copenhagen-style crossings for side roads.

Our aim was to allow people to experience calm & healthy streets for themselves and show that taking space away from cars is possible. We also hope this study tour will help residents engage with and support Southampton City Council’s plans to co-design liveable streets in St Denys.

“The collaboration is critical. When a community brings its local knowledge and connections, and the council brings its convening, planning and fundraising power together, real change can happen.”

Below are a selection of photos from the day together with some thoughts from the residents who joined us. We hope they will share their experience with their family, friends and neighbours in St Denys and across the city!

14 Southampton residents went on this study tour on 7th February and here are some of their thoughts:

“It’s great to see a community where things are clearly and measurably getting better. The improvements are measurable: Cleaner air (56,000 fewer people in illegal NOx zones), more active travel, traffic moving faster on the main routes, hearing children play and birds singing. Fears about change were mostly groundless. There will always be resistance. Engage with it in an open, honest and transparent way. When you get things wrong, say so. Then try again, try better.”

“I was impressed with the council’s commitment to modal filter to stop through traffic, as a I don’t think half measures produce the benefits. Also they have increased their vote which would often be a reason a council would shy away from that commitment. They have also used the proper parking and enforcement legislation to keep cycle ways clear which can be challenging for councils. All this creates a great feeling of calm about the area and such an atmosphere has to reap rewards for families and residents. There is also a sense of ownership from the residents with the artworks and planting projects. The benefits towards active travel and use of outdoor space away from road traffic and exhausts go without saying. The car journey count reductions on minor roads are impressive. The layout of St Denys and the need to tackle the rat running here means it lends itself well to such a scheme.”

  • “There were several moments during the day when I stopped and thought “how wonderful is this!” These include:
  • Walking in the middle of the road and knowing I was safe – that even if a vehicle arrived it would be moving slowly
  • The bike storage in ex-car parking slots – great to have secure storage that doesn’t involve dragging the bike through the house
  • Being able to hear the birds singing – in London!
  • A general feeling of the area being a great place to live because so much thought had been put in – about how to make it a nicer place to be
  • The special attention that had been put in near the schools – traffic reduction measures like narrowing the street, widening the pavements, putting in planting to take rainwater runoff and be nice to look at and closing off some streets in one direction or another, to stop rat runs
  • The way the pavements were continued across a junction at the same level, so vehicles knew in a physical way they had to slow down and take care (driving over the raised bit)
  • Clearly designated through routes (faster main roads) and clearly separate residential routes, where driver behaviour was changed by making it much slower and not a through route to anything except homes
  • Removal of traffic (except walking and cycling) from the small shopping street (between 7am and 7pm) and the large market – took me back to my youth 😉 – and the threat of a fine of £659. The way residents had got involved with art work and little libraries and planting schemes
  • Overall I thought that there is nothing like “being there” – to experience how my stress levels fell as soon as I entered roads which were quiet, where traffic moved slowly and where I felt safe – pictures can’t give you that.”

“I think that to be able to have such a scheme here we need to look at Southampton as a whole, hence have a long term vision, supported by the Council. Paul said 270000 people live in Walthamstow,  slightly larger than Southampton. Having pedestrianised areas in St Denys North would be ideal as the pollution is horrendous but will only work if we can reduce the amount of traffic by offering Park & Ride, and more public transport. Otherwise we will pass on our issue to another street in Southampton. I really liked the layout of the roads: ie having pedestrians, cyclists, cars on very segregated spaces. This looked much safer than having cycle lanes painted on the road. I actually gave up cycling when I reached 50 as I felt too unsafe sharing the same road as an articulated lorry. 
I really liked the artwork (paintings, mosaic), the green spaces and the cleanliness of Little Holland. If the local schools, local residents in St Denys could be involved in this, the area would be more welcoming, people could take ownership and there may be less vandalism.”

“It was great to visit Waltham Forest to see what they have achieved and I feel these ideas which have been implemented will be transferable to St Denys and city wide in order to achieve a cleaner and healthier environment.  I would like to see areas become more pedestrian friendly with more footpaths and ideas such as Copenhagen Crossings being implemented. I feel this would help to encourage more people to walk and give more freedom.”

Breathing Spaces: into 2020

Image: Nesta/Beth Crockatt

We’ve had our final Clean Air Cafe of 2019. Together we made a timeline of all the events, and activities that have happened in St Denys throughout our Breathing Spaces year. And what a year it has been! (Click on the thumbnail images for a closer look!)

To date, people have been saying they want air quality conversation and action within the St Denys and Southampton community to continue. They want to explore more of the air quality data and science and understand the most effective measures to reduce pollution. They have a whole range of ideas for reducing traffic and sources of pollution. They love the community action that has been happening and want more chances to get involve in positive ways such as through gardening and creative ways to share pollution and community messages. They want to work together towards healthier, less polluted streets.

Our independent evaluator, Naomi Jones, will be assessing everyone’s feedback on the project and we’ll be reporting back in early 2020.

If you’d still like to get involved in community projects, below are just a few of the ways you can take part. Priory Road North will be hosting an Open Streets event on Sat 7 Dec 5-7pm, which the Breathing Spaces community are welcome to join.

We’re also excited to be offering the chance to take some St Denys residents on a study trip to Waltham Forest to see the Mini Holland scheme, in the New Year. Read more here, and do let us know if you want to join in.

Photo 30-11-2019, 18 20 33

Keep in touch! and we look forward to seeing what 2020 brings.

[Header image courtesy of Nesta/Beth Crockatt]

A space for community not commuters

Mini Holland
‘Mini Holland’ in Waltham Forest, London Image: Waltham Forest BC

It’s November 2019 and the neighbourhood of St Denys feels like it’s on the cusp of transformative change. We’re coming to the end of a great year for the Breathing Spaces project, with lots of engagement on clean air issues and resident-led projects kickstarting local action. Southampton City Council also recently launched its Connecting St Denys survey which will hopefully form the basis of a more liveable, low-traffic neighbourhood in 2020. It’s important to remember that St Denys/Portswood was selected out of 85 areas in Southampton for this survey – make sure you make your views known!

In terms of Breathing Spaces, we chose St Denys as the initial focus area because there is a strong sense of community and lots of residents keen on creating change. The neighbourhood has also, up until now, appeared ‘invisible’ to commuters, commercial traffic & policymakers. We recognise that areas close to the docks or motorways are pollution hotspots, but purely residential neighbourhoods aren’t viewed as having a particular problem. The reality is that St Denys has terrible issues with rat-running, HGV traffic, peak-time congestion and poor air quality. Recent flooding, which closed off part of Thomas Lewis Way and caused traffic gridlock for almost a whole day, is another compelling reason to transform the area into a space for local communities rather than commuters.

Waltham Forest Mini Holland – East Ave, Orford Rd, London

A key source of inspiration has been the Waltham Forest ‘Mini Holland‘ project in London. The photos above provide a glimpse of what local streets could be like in Southampton if you took motorised transport out of the equation. Orford Road in Waltham Forest is a high street which used to be choked with traffic, but is now a thriving public space. People linger, spend more money locally and can breathe more easily. What’s not to love?

At our final Clean Air Café on 30th November we want to talk about how everyone’s ideas and pledges for clean air and healthy streets can be supported in 2020. We’re also looking for a group of residents who would like to take part in a study tour of the Waltham Forest Mini Holland project and then inspire the St Denys community to create its own truly liveable neighbourhood. Could you be an ambassador for clean air & healthy streets?

And if you’re thinking ‘This is all great but where is all that traffic supposed go?’ then the answer is – it simply evaporates.

“…traffic does not behave like water moving through pipes, finding an easier path as another narrows. Instead it is a force of human choice, driven by people making all sorts of different decisions when driving conditions change. The respondents in the Cairns study, for example, changed their mode of travel, chose alternative destinations, or the frequency of their journey, consolidated trips, took up car sharing or didn’t make the journey at all.”

Imagining St Denys at our Clean Air Café in October

In order to realise a vision for the future you have to imagine it first. So at our Clean Air Café on 26th October we asked everyone to: ‘Imagine your neighbourhood in 20 years time – all of today’s problems have been solved and it’s the perfect place to live. What does it look like?‘ Below are some of the responses we had – ideas and designs for the perfect neighbourhood.

Re-designing St Denys – streets for children, car as guest, community boat, benches, street art & social calendar
Summary of ideas for ‘Imagining St Denys’

Some of the other suggestions included:

  • “More street events … benches/trees/places to talk/stop/rest and meet your neighbours”
  • “Another crossing point over river for walkers, cyclists and scooters”
  • “Encourage the feeling of a village”
  • “All roads blocked off in the middle so can access only”
  • “Encourage & celebrate healthy ways … colour is important, England has toooo much grey … cover flat roofs in moss, small plants etc”
  • “Knock down all the dilapidated buildings and turn them into green spaces

It seems that reclaiming space for the community is a key thread running through these ideas. Let’s make this vision for St Denys a reality.

Graphic recording of the Clean Air Café by Rebecca Kinge. Click on an image to see a bigger version.

Northam Home Zone, Radcliffe Road
Another example of a low traffic neighbourhood – Northam Home Zone in Southampton
https://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3614900

Feature image – Orford Rd, Waltham Forest, London. Courtesy of:

A tour of Waltham Forest’s Mini Holland

Putting ideas into action

BREATHING SPACES BURSARIESUPDATE (November 2019)

In June, we asked local people:

Do you have an idea for a small project which responds to air pollution and helps promote healthier streets in St Denys?

Would you like some funding to try this out?

Breathing Spaces could fund 6-10 bursary ideas at £400 each, with the opportunity to spend a total of £4,000. This money comes courtesy of our funder Nesta. We asked for feedback at our Clean Air Ideas drop-in and also via our residents’ panel. If you have any comments please do let us know: breathe@socollective.org.uk

What has been submitted so far? How much is requested/needed? What feedback has been received so far?
Front Gardens Plus
A project to encourage planting and greening of gardens and other open, unloved spaces.
– Absorb pollution
– Improve the environment
– Community spirit, pride and engagement
– Health benefits Proposed by a team of seven local residents.
£400 for leaflets and distribution, basic supplies, saplings etc. Lots of positive feedback, the community seems to like the idea of a greenery project. Quite a few people have said they would like to get actively involved in this. Members of the community have said that Front Garden Plus and Rebel Gardeners should work together, and those who submitted seem to keen to do this too.   People say they value real action and also the focus on human health and wellbeing.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/469269597188557/
Rebel Gardeners
Engage the local community to re-green and replant urban areas of the community.
– Address urban disengagement with nature and environment
– Improve awareness in children around good sources of healthy eating
Proposed by local voluntary organisation Rebel Gardeners Southampton  
£200 to start on planters with veg, £800 gets us nearer a green wall.

[Sept update: work is planned on a green wall at St Denys Primary school]

https://www.facebook.com/rebelgardeners.soton/
All Aboard River Festival A waterborne, water-edge music/theatre production on 31 August, located on the St Denys stretch of the River Itchen. There will be clean air themed storytelling & a clean air banner to be ‘paraded afloat’ during the event.
Hosted by St Denys Boat Club, Chris Townsend and Deb Wilkes.
£260 for clean air storytelling, a clean air banner, clean air troll and promotional materials. This was a great event! Photographs available here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/652134415264962/
 Projects which are under discussion How much?
 
Photography: people in masks
With a focus on empathy and how we can all change the system, not an ‘us and them’ approach to clean air challenges.  
By local residents.
Sept update: application received – £400 budget  
Clean Air Mural
Located on local wall e.g. by the train station. Suggested by local residents, would be undertaken by a local artist
To be commissioned – presume a £400 budget.

Oct update: Helen Trimarco-Ransome has offered to look into this.
 
Clean Air Film
To showcase the work of the community, Clean Air Cafés and Breathing Spaces. Demonstrate the health improvements from community engagement.  
By a Southampton filmmaker, co-produced with members of the local community.
To be commissioned – we need to explore whether a £400 would be adequate.

Sept update:
we are looking to involve young people in producing a film
 
Thermal imaging surveys
This would make the connection between energy efficiency and local air pollution, as thermal images of homes can show where energy efficiency improvements can be made & therefore reducing heating requirements.
Sept update: Discussions ongoing – presume £400 budget  
Engaging with St Denys Primary School Commission an artist to do some air quality engagement; or create a leaflet for parents on air pollution & healthProposed allocation of £400.

Nov update: A member of the Parent group at the school has offered to look into this & explore the idea of asking children how they would re-design their neighbourhood for cleaner air & healthy streets. This would then be submitted as a response to the council’s ‘Connecting St Denys’ survey.
 
Creative clean air signage/slogans/mosaics Commission local artists to undertake some public art or signage to ‘make St Denys more visible’ and raise awareness of air quality issues. One idea is a “Mr Gasp” mosaic by Will Rosie, to add to his Mr Men mosaics across the city. There has also been suggestions of making the national cycle route through St Denys more visible.   Possible to achieve something within £400 budget, but this has not yet been fully explored/costed. This could be subject to more conversation through the project.

Oct update: Helen Trimarco-Ransome has offered to look into this.
 

Ideas which will be funded under Breathing Spaces engagement:

Street Closures
Fund further support for Play Streets/Street Party road closures (following closure of parts of Priory Road on 20 July) e.g. flyers, decorations, equipment, food.

There will be a Winter Open Streets event on 7th December, 5-7pm, Priory Road (North).

Clean air survey
Following the first three Clean Air Cafes, which have been well attended, the survey would work to explore more residents’ views about clean air. The idea would be to engage as many of the 1,200 households in St Denys as possible with ideas around cleaner air & potential interventions, such as temporary or permanent road closures, but also signage, murals & greenery.

Other key ideas not for a bursary due to their scope:

  • Blocking off the top of Kent Road to stop rat running
  • Policy development proposals
  • Improving public transport, in particular bus travel

Header photo by Daniel Funes Fuentes on Unsplash

St Denys Open Streets

On 20th July we helped organise 2 separate street parties in St Denys – a mini one outside the Community Centre and a larger one taking up much of Priory Road, North of St Denys Road. They were both fantastic events with lots of members of the community coming out to create chalk drawings on the street, share food, meet their neighbours, or just stop and have a chat.

Images courtesy of Ben Quextal

On the South side we joined up with the Big Bike Revival which provided different types of bikes for people to try out, a smoothie bike and bike repairs; and The Environment Centre had an air quality exhibit where you could learn about active travel and the best way to have healthy lungs. We also had a tug of war, music and kids happily playing in the street.

Images: The Southampton Collective

The reaction to the street parties was overwhelmingly positive, with residents wanting to do this more often and not just for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. In addition, the residents on Priory Road (North) had got used to living on peaceful street after a recent 10-day road closure due to sewer works and some were wondering if more permanent measures could be put in place.

The Breathing Spaces team would like to support residents in St Denys to hold future outdoor community events, Play Streets or street parties. We’re also investigating what kinds of traffic interventions could be implemented in the neighbourhood. We’d love to know what you think!

Cash for clean air

Do you have an idea for a small project which responds to air pollution and helps promote healthier streets in St Denys? Would you like some funding to try this out?

We have several pots of up to £400 to hand out to Southampton residents or groups that have got an idea that they would like to test out. Ideas might have been developed at one of our Clean Air Cafés or independently.

We are keen to hear from a range of people and groups about a variety of ideas – creatives, scientists, community activists, people dedicated to improving healthy living and healthy streets. If you’d like to know more about the bursaries please download our guidance document and application template.

Our next Clean Air Café Tuesday 4th June will be an opportunity to develop ideas and find likeminded people who might like to help put ideas into action.

The deadline for submissions is 5pm, Thursday 13th June. We would like everyone to have a chance to read & comment on the proposed projects, so we will be sharing these online and during our Clean Air Ideas – Drop In on Tuesday 18th June. This will be held at St Denys Church Hall, 5-9pm.

We hope to fund 6-10 different proposals. Projects should:

  • make a significant contribution to cleaner air or liveable neighbourhoods in St Denys;
  • benefit the residents of St Denys;
  • receive a positive response from members of the community in St Denys either through online feedback or at the Clean Air Ideas Drop In;
  • commence by 1st October 2019.

Priority is likely to be given to residents or people with a good connection to the area. You do not have to be a constituted organisation to apply. Support from external organisations (e.g. artists collectives, campaign organisations, local businesses) is encouraged.

We aren’t looking for activities that have guaranteed success (we believe that it is good to test things even if they don’t work out), in fact we welcome innovation and new ideas. We ask that you do what you say you will do in the application and provide updates to the Breathing Spaces team, so that we can keep the community and our funders informed of progress.

Brainwaves and bright ideas

At the recent Clean Air Cafés, residents have come up with well over 100 different ideas for tackling local air pollution and creating liveable neighbourhoods. Perhaps demonstrating that tea & cake do provide food for thought 🙂 As there were so many ideas, we’ve grouped them into loose themes, such as ‘Making the community visible’, ‘Reclaiming the streets’ and ‘Commuter traffic’.

We used Padlet to create the ‘Ideas Wall’ below (Click on the image for a bigger version). If you’d like to support or help develop any of these mini-projects, please do let us know through the comments section below. At the next Clean Air Café on Tuesday 4th June we’ll be seeing how they can be put into action!

Click on the image to bring up a bigger version. Click to zoom in. Scroll up & down and left & right to see all the ideas.

Just in case you’d like to see all the original post it notes, here they are grouped by theme. NB The constant shuffling of bits of paper meant that many of the green dots used for voting fell off! (But don’t worry we took photos beforehand 🙂 ).

Car ownership
Cycling
Reclaiming the streets
Public transport
Commuter traffic and Business
Commercial traffic
Making the community visible
Schools
Pedestrians and Greenery
Health
Miscellaneous

Conversations about cleaner air

So far we’ve run two Clean Air Cafés in St Denys, inviting residents to share their concerns on local air quality, sharing data from local sensors and generating ideas for change. At each event 45-50 people participated in the discussions and it’s been fantastic to host conversations around clean air and healthy streets with local people.

We collated all the post it notes and comments from the first event and used ‘Wordle’ to come up with the following graphics. The first one shows the areas in the neighbourhood where people feel there is a problem with air pollution; the second is more positive – the elements which make the community of St Denys strong. We would like to draw on these neighbourhood assets to help solve the air quality problem.

The second Clean Air Café was all about generating ideas for cleaner air and healthier streets. Below is the huge pile of ideas on post it notes sorted into different themes. One in particular stood out …

We were really pleased that Flo joined us at the second event to talk a little about the sensors that the University of Southampton has installed around the area and the data that is being produced. A separate blogpost will be written about the sensor data – watch this space!

So pleased that residents of all ages are coming to our events!

Tea, cake, post it notes and maps at our 1st event.

Boxing clever

The Breathing Spaces team was celebrating yesterday as we have now got 2 air quality sensor boxes installed and collecting data in St Denys! Huge thanks to the residents and local organisations who have agreed to be part of the project, not to mention to the sensor team at the University of Southampton. We will be carrying out further installations over the next few weeks and we’re looking forward to analysing all the data.

If you’d like to get involved in the project, not just by hosting a sensor but by sharing your skills, insights and local knowledge, please do get in touch.

APRIL UPDATE: We now have 6 sensor boxes in total installed in and around St Denys – 3 in different locations on Priory Road, 1 on Kent Road, 1 on St Denys Road and 1 on Portswood Road.

JULY UPDATE: We now have 7 sensor boxes installed in total and have agreed locations for 4 more boxes to be installed in the Autumn. We just need 1 more location to make it 12 in total!