We're excited to share with you the progress we've made in our recent meetings with key New South Wales politicians. Our advocacy efforts are gaining momentum, and we're at the forefront of conversations that will shape the future of our streets. These conversations are pivotal in encouraging our politicians to make decisions that ensure streets are not just roads but vibrant community spaces.
Regular Engagements with Minister Haylen's Office
We've successfully established a regular quarterly meeting with Minister Haylen's office, the Transport Minister. Our most recent discussion was both productive and promising. We delved into the potential of launching an active travel to schools program for NSW. This initiative is close to our heart as it not only promotes healthy and safe access for our children but also reduces traffic congestion during peak school hours. We provided a range of options for a program in the short to long term, and examples of successful pilot projects throughout NSW.
Furthermore, we discussed setting mode share targets and provided advice on rallying community support for the Oxford Street streetscape upgrade and cycleway in Paddington.
Meeting with Dr Marjorie O'Neil MP
Our advocacy for active travel to schools found a passionate supporter in Dr Marjorie O'Neil MP, the Parliamentary Secretary for Transport. As with Haylen's office we provided further insights on this topic and gave practical advice on how such a program would roll out to councils and schools. Joining us in this meeting was Safe Streets for Schools, along with members experienced in Sydney's Northern Beaches and Eastern suburbs. Their insights and experiences added depth to our discussions, ensuring a holistic approach with practical advice.
Workshop with Transport for NSW
In collaboration with Bicycle NSW and BIKEast, we participated in a workshop led by Transport for NSW on the Oxford Street streetscape upgrade and cycleway. Our role was to guide them on collaborating with us and our coalition members to rally community support. We also provided feedback on the proposed street design layout and offered suggestions on framing messaging and timing for maximum impact.
Upcoming Meeting with John Graham
We're scheduled to meet with John Graham, Minister for Roads and Arts, this week. We're eager to discuss our vision and gain his insights on roads, outdoor dining and the 24 hour economy.
One of our core purposes at Better Streets is to consistently engage with key decision-makers and politicians in government. We believe in supporting them in making bold and necessary steps to improve streets for people. Our goal is to ensure that our streets are not just thoroughfares but spaces where communities thrive.
Thank you for being a part of this journey. Together, we can make our streets better for everyone.
Fairlight community members and businesses have partnered with Northern Beaches Council to host a street party in the village centre on Sydney Road. The slip road opposite the main shops will be closed to cars and traffic speeds reduced from 60 to 40km/h, allowing the village to come together and celebrate local artists, makers, musicians and community groups. There's a packed agenda with yoga classes, salsa classes, and a DJ. Come and join in the Fairlight fling.
Event Date: Saturday 9 September 2023
Time: 10am to 2pm
Location: Fairlight Village Centre, 147 Sydney Road, Fairlight NSW. 10 minutes walk from Manly Wharf or the 144 bus drops you in the heart of the village
Event website: link
The installation of temporary infrastructure such as artificial grass, planters, outdoor furniture and garden games on the road (often referred to as tactical or guerilla urbanism) will be a great opportunity to highlight the benefits of creating additional space for people and improving the safety of our streets.
Better Streets will be launching a new online mapping tool on the day that will allow community members to highlight opportunities to create safe, healthy, people-friendly, climate-friendly streets.
Call to action: Better Streets are looking for volunteers to help with the event. We need:
The City of Stonnington (Victoria) is seeking public input to their once in a lifetime Chapel Street Transformation project and they're going about it in a most interesting way. Chapel Street is renowned for its shops, cafes, liveliness. To help council prioritise they are asking you to vote on what matters most. You have 100 points to allocate to the different options presented.
Consultation is open until 30 September 2023. Go vote here - link
Transport equity is the principle that all individuals, regardless of their socio-economic status, race, disability, age, gender, or other aspects of their identity, should have equal access to safe, affordable, reliable, and efficient transportation options.
Friends of the Earth (FOE) is inviting all groups and individuals who are interested and care about accessible and equitable transport for all, to join Transport Equity Week from 17-23 September 2023 with an action to raise awareness for transportation equity issues. You can sign up for an action here and access the fantastic social media pack.
What does transport equity mean?
Transport equity, also known as transportation equity or mobility justice, addresses the disparities and barriers that certain groups face when trying to access transportation. This can be thought about in 7 broad areas.
Case study - Chatswood and Liverpool.
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Key conversations revolved around:
- The unfolding active mobility boom in China, particularly in Beijing and Tianjin, where over 3,200km of cycling infrastructure has been upgraded in four years. The figures were absolutely mindblowing, and we recommend you watch the webinar recording.
- The critical role of the Australian Government in active transport, in particular climate change action and health benefits. It was highlighted that walking saves the economy about $5.30 per km and cycling about $1.80 per km in health benefits, with the Australian Government bearing most of the costs of health care. In addition, the federal government has international climate change obligations, of which active transport has a key role in shifting to sustainable transport.
- The importance of providing access to transport for all, considering nearly 40% of the Australian population doesn't drive due to various reasons including age, disability, financial constraints, or choice.
Following the Better Streets delegation to Canberra, Sara Stace met with Wentworth federal MP, Independent Allegra Spender for a briefing. They recorded a short social media video, so keep an eye out for that soon.
She loves seeing people of all ages, shapes and sizes can enjoying quiet tree-lined streets on foot or by bike and wishes everyone had access to urban spaces like that. It makes her sad and angry that so much of our public space is dominated by cars.
Monique says she joined Better Streets to be part of a positive movement for change. She's here to listen to people’s concerns, find the common ground and weave together a story of our shared values. She looks forward to working together to create better streets for everyone, especially our kids.
Volunteer. You can change your streets. Robbie tells us how he got Open Streets for his children's school.
By the time both of my children were at school I found myself wishing that our bike ride to and from school could be a little bit nicer. For context, it’s already nice-ish. Our school, Coburg North Primary School, has separated pedestrian and cycling paths that run right to the main entrance. It’s just that as usual, space is quite contested around school pick up and drop off times, and there is a lot of motor vehicle traffic. We also have to cross a very busy arterial road to get there.
The inspiration to do something about it comes from my family’s lived experience of using active transport every day to school. Putting aside the daily constraints of the weather, it feels like our ambition to make active transport the first choice in our family is working well. But it isn’t exactly easy all the time. The chance came to do something about it when our council, Merri-bek (Victoria), started to directly engage with schools in a Ride and Stride program. As a volunteer on the school council, my first step was to work with the school in applying for this program. In our application we talked about how many children already ride to school, and we felt that this was only the beginning.
As I’m sure many readers will appreciate, schools are busy places. We are fortunate in that our school supports these programs, but it is quite clear that they need to be community run to succeed here. Teachers have to teach. So the trick was to find a way to make this run with volunteers, so that we could deliver better active transport to the children, without putting any more burden on the school. The Open Streets trial events were carried off with great success, but quite a lot of work from the school, the council, and support from Bicycle Network. The trials revealed three things: that open streets can be carried out; that they have a huge impact on the amount of active transport used to get to school, and that an overwhelming majority in the community supported the idea.
A successful trial needs to lead to something else, and in this case, it was establishing a fully fledged program. More than the trial, the program has to rely on volunteers. So in the background, I took on the role of lead volunteer in the program, which meant undertaking traffic management training, so that I could implement a traffic management plan. A traffic management plan is the sort of thing you see when roadworks are undertaken, we put signs out to advise of road closures in a safe way. These plans are drawn up by professionals.
Another role of mine as lead volunteer was to build a team of willing adult volunteers who would help on the day. While I have to be present, as the person implementing the traffic management plan, each time we open the street, we also rely on other volunteers. We’ve got one person at each end of the street and another person roving the area. We provide advice on how to detour motor vehicles around the space, and we also help residents gain access to their homes if they need to, during the event. There’s even a building site in our area, and I often help the builders get their materials on site.
An Open Streets event is a happy event. By opening a stretch of side street, only 100m long, we create an entirely different look and feel. The space becomes human centred. We close the road to motor vehicles from 8:15 to 9am. During this time, it’s wonderful to see how the space fills with families, and the children have lots more space to play, walk, ride and scoot – both to school and around the street once they arrive. The street becomes a social space, before the school bell rings. Lots of people hang around, the children play and chat to each other, and frankly the parents do the same. It changes the dynamic of the school drop off. In the afternoons from 3:15pm to 4:15 we do it again. When school ends at 3:30 pm, it fills up with people who sometimes hang around for a short time, and sometimes as long as they can! The afternoons have more of a relaxed feel, perhaps because of being on a Friday.
Being a volunteer on the school council was no doubt a part of getting this initiative started. It also has to be said that the leadership from Merri-bek has been superb. Naturally, our school principal and leadership team have been instrumental as well. They understand the educational benefits of children using active transport to get to school, so the whole program is in their interest.
So far this year, we’ve been running open streets on the first Friday of every month. We launched with a celebratory feel, and now have ingrained them as kind of normal. Every event isn’t a party, it just feels like a little slice of somewhere else, happening here in suburban Melbourne. In the beginning, I fielded plenty of questions from locals, but these have become much easier to answer as the evidence - that is, happy children playing - becomes visible. If you’ve ever had curiosity about what can be done at your school to improve active transport, then my suggestions are straightforward.
First of all, contribute to your school council by volunteering.
Secondly, make the time to explain the educational benefits of active transport to the school. Thirdly, engage with your local government on active transport. This last step for me was easy, but even if it’s difficult, I think it is always worth trying.
For more info about the program and to read the reports visit:
Robbie Napper is a parent of two primary school aged children and lives with his family in Coburg, a Northern suburb of Melbourne. When not volunteering, Robbie is a Senior Lecturer at Monash University and sustainable transport expert. He is Deputy Director of Monash's Mobility Design Lab, member of the Australasian College of Road Safety, and holds a PhD in Industrial Design specialising in mobility. He is co-author of the book: Urban Mobility Design.