In Brussels (1,175,000 inhabitants), the Living Streets target the improvement of the quality of life in the public space by meeting and reflecting on the problems of the streets among the inhabitants and Brussels Participation. In this framework the inhabitants are seen as the experts of their streets. The focus is not only on closing the street to cars but also on coming together and reflecting on the needs of the streets and then co-creating the street and finding creative solutions to the daily problems. To date, Living Streets have been tested in Brussels in several neighborhoods and streets with different typologies. The initiative is called “Rue à vivre” or “Leefstraat” (Streets to live).
How are Living Streets organised in Brussels?
Each Living Street requires a preparation period of about three months and thereafter is publicly implemented during one to two months. Living Streets can be organised at any time of the year. An application needs to be submitted by the initiators and the city of Brussels and the Police department need to give the green light for it. A project can be allocated a budget between 1,000 and 5,000 euros. Brussels Participation is the service of the City of Brussels that supports project leaders launch a Living Street. There is close collaboration with various municipal departments : Participation, Green Spaces and Environment.
The main requirements to organise a Living Street :
Any inhabitant of the City of Brussels can launch a Living Street where s/he resides.
The initiator can be an individual, an association, a neighborhood committee or residents’ collective.
The initiator needs to mobilise at least three inhabitants of the street and create a leading group.
You live in your street, you know it better than anyone else. To know how you want to live in your street, we need your help. The existing situation can always improve and we think that you can play a key role here.
Els Ampe, Deputy Mayor in charge of public works, mobility and vehicle fleet, City of Brussels
The creation and implementation phases of a Living Street:
Define the project : choose the location (one or several streets, a market, a public square). At this moment, the steering groups meet Brussels Participation and other municipal services to get feedback on their first ideas and actions they want to implement. To smoothen this step, the municipality prepared a Vade Mecum, a manual helping project leaders to frame their project, working method and budget.
Field work done by inhabitants : they engage with the other inhabitants via surveys and meetings to choose the actions and to create the steering group, composed of a minimum of three residents.
Submit the application : there is a form that the steering group needs to fill in and submit to Brussels Participation that details the needs of the street, the vision for their street as well as precise actions and timeframe with a budget. They submit their request for authorisations to be able to close the streets to cars and to organise events in the public space. Via this ’Declaration claim’ form, project leaders agree to respect the Vade Mecum.
The City of Brussels can advance 80% of the amount requested to the project leader. The remaining 20% will be paid after the presentation of the final report and all financial evidence and after approval by the Council.
Launch of public activities during the agreed period.
Submit a final report and all financial evidence.
The municipality of Brussels communicates and promotes the Living Streets via information sessions to citizens in order to raise awareness and encourage the organisation of Living Streets. The initiative has been implemented in 8 streets so far.
In Brussels, the Living Streets tackled many aspects such as prostitution, need for positive animation of public spaces and ownership by their inhabitants, need for green spaces, need for silence in an area impacted by public works during several years, reflecting on the need for a residential zone for meeting and sharing among inhabitants.
What are the lessons learned?
Everyone wants to join the party, but no one wants to organise it ! It is difficult to move from interest in a project to concrete action as many people are enthusiastic but not necessarily ready to take action to implement and steer the project.
Involving the press and media too early in the process puts pressure on people
There was no vandalism during the project, all equipment was respected by the neighbours and other users. However, after the project ended, some equipment was taken over by homeless people.
A Living Street takes long to organise, it is multifaceted and not immediately visible, making it complex to handle.
Strong social ties were developed among the neighbours and the resistance of some inhabitants has been overcome by allowing them to concretely visualise the city of the future.
Residents’ ownership of their street increased via DIY equipment that helped embellish the public space, make it more pleasant and adapted to citizens’ needs and expectations.
For the future of the initiative in Brussels, it was concluded that a Living Streets needs to be extended over longer periods of time in order to meet the expectations of the residents and put them in practice. It is also important to organise several Living Streets in the same spot, to experiment and possibly implement certain solutions on a permanent basis.
Further information: For more information click here : FR and NL In Brussels, there are numerous programmes and actions dedicated to residents (see the Public Policy Programme 2012-2018).
The objectives of the Living Streets in Ivanić-Grad (14,000 inhabitants) are to prepare the ground for the creation of a pedestrian city centre, promote bicycles as a means of transport, support local production and consumption and encourage circular economy. The municipality aims to attract young people to live in Ivanić-Grad after finishing their studies as well as change people’s mind-sets regarding the individual use of cars and unsustainable consumption models. For this purpose, the municipality is linked to different local businesses and citizens and is moving from a top down approach to a bottom up and co-creative one.
The city of Ivanić-Grad is well developed thanks to gas and oil resources, but this has a negative impact on the local environment. The city also faces two important demographic issues: aging population and emigration. Due to the prolonged economic crisis, there are currently empty commercial spaces in the city centre, as well as abandoned land suitable for agriculture. This land belongs to the municipality, to the ministry of agriculture and to private owners who moved out of Ivanić-Grad.
Local food production and consumption, circular economy and changing of mind-sets
In order to address the issue of local food production, in the first edition of Living Streets the municipality organised a pumpkin production contest to attract citizens to the Living Streets initiative and link with an existing popular event: the pumpkin fest.
To all the citizens who filled in the application form, the Mayor of Ivanić-Grad distributed 100 urban gardening sets, including pumpkin seeds, tools for gardening, labels for seeds and instructions. In this framework, the municipal owned land was temporarily offered to citizens who live in multi-apartment buildings and do not own gardens to use it for urban gardening. Their results encouraged them to continue in the coming years, creating a demand for more land for the future Living Streets editions. Therefore, the municipality is relaying with the national ministry of agriculture to use the plots of currently abandoned land. The municipality is also discussing with citizens who do not use their land in order to make it available for urban gardening. Local family farms expressed interest to buy the locally produced vegetables and fruits. Citizens and local businesses were therefore connected by the municipality to collaborate in the future.
As a Deputy Mayor, I have been following the Living Streets Project since the very beginning because I felt it could be very beneficial to our citizens. During the project I was actively involved in urban gardening. Citizens motivated by my own example of planting pumpkins, started planting them as well. At the end of a successful gardening season, we organized a seed exchange and prepared ourselves for the next season. I think citizens will continue to partake in this interesting project even after its official ending and encourage each other in planting pumpkins which will contribute to strengthening the traditional city manifestation.
Željko Posilović, Deputy Mayor, City of Ivanić-Grad
An urban gardening workshop was set up, including distribution of specific toolkits for citizens (pumpkin seeds, tools for gardening, labels for flower beds and instructions). In October the citizens will present their results via a competition (for example: the best pumpkin cake). Also 4 schools and 4 kindergardens participated via an urban agriculture process focusing on aromatic herbs. Several highshools and NGOs were also involved, namely the Red Cross working with citizens with disabilities.
Furthermore, Living Streets offered the opportunity to exchange experience with Macedonian experts on agriculture production leading to an international trading contract signed between businesses from Ivanić-Grad and experts from Macedonia. In this framework, Macedonian expertise will be transferred to Ivanić and in turn, Ivanić will export innovative products developed within the Living Streets such as urban gardening sets, pumpkin seeds, local eco-toys and eco-devices prepared by local designers and companies. From a social perspective, the project is expected to link up many citizens in Ivanić who are from Macedonia and it is likely that they will reconnect with their families from Macedonia.
In the framework of Living Streets, the municipality encouraged small businesses to cooperate and to communicate on common goals they are reaching for and not to see themselves as competitors. Thus, the NGO Brenta was created to regroup wine producers in order to help them cooperate better. Many produce Škrlet wine, leading to the organisation of a new local event: the festival of the Škrlet wine. They are also now responding together to large market demands for local wine, to which they cannot respond individually. The municipality acted here as a facilitator encouraging networking within its territory by connecting people and businesses.
Ivanić-Grad also organised a local workshop on crowdfunding to link up students and existing and future local producers with two goals: future orientation of the students from the middle school and set up local businesses. As a result, a local cookie factory will be opened, the local bakery developed new products and urban furniture for Living Streets on the main square. Also gardening toolkits and insect hotels were produced thanks to Living Streets connecting Design students who designed the elements, skilled pensioners who pre-crafted the elements according to the drawings and kindergarten children who assembled them. All this got together at the main city square during the green living-room events in Ivanić. So, after the crowdfunding crash-course, the students are considering a start-up in urban design now.
All that it took to make this a true social innovation is the local radio station sharing the right news, passionate handy pensioners, creative and proactive design students and open-minded municipal staff…gathered together via Living Streets in Ivanić.
Local consumption and awareness raising
During the Christmas period, the municipality encouraged the citizens to buy local presents (food, drinks, toys). It turned out that many citizens did not know where to buy these products locally, nor did they know who the local producers were and whether they had a shop. To solve this issue, in the main square an exhibition office was built temporarily and local producers could sell their products there prior to the Christmas period. This proved to be very successful. Thanks to Living Streets, the mind-sets of the citizens are changing regarding the importance of local production and on their consumption habits.
A local pedestrian city centre
In the past, the municipality envisaged to close the city centre to cars, but this was perceived as an unpopular measure at the time.
During the Living Streets, this car free city centre was experienced twice for two weeks during different periods in 2017. At first local businesses and shop owners were worried that their sales would decrease. However, during the urban workshop they understood that even if the square is closed to cars they would still be able to deliver goods. Besides, when they realised that citizens are asking for the square to be pedestrian, they understood that this might be an opportunity for them. The municipality promised to do some communication activities to promote their businesses. Positive results from other European cities were shown to prove that car-free city centres do not come only with problems, but also with solutions.
After experimenting and evaluating, the following conclusions were drawn:
Young citizens and the families with kids see the main square as a safe and thrilling place with green spaces, playgrounds, cafés.
On the other hand, other citizens (especially middle aged males) voted against closing the main square to cars (they usually can park their individual car in front of the shops).
It is felt that activities organised within the Living Streets were still not sufficient to change the mind-sets completely and help citizens see that it is much healthier to bike and to walk.
To make a pedestrian square, budget is required for infrastructure and this is not included in the municipal budget for the next two years. However, experts within the project suggested some soft activities and minor works that do not require a huge budget.
In the near future, the municipality of Ivanić will need to change its urban plans especially related to the historic city centre. It is planned to organise another urban workshop and citizens will be invited again to express their opinions, needs and suggestions.
Only political commitment and a decision from the mayor to close the square for a longer period, for instance six month, can have a bigger effect and allow city officials and citizens to better assess the acceptance and impact of a pedestrian main square in Ivanić.
La Rochelle (75,000 inhabitants) is a touristic city on the French Atlantic coast that aims to become a slow town, meaning that 80% of the streets will be limited to a speed of 30 km/h in the coming years. The Living Streets offer the opportunity to experiment, to test life without cars and imagine a different use of public space. With this initiative, La Rochelle is using bicycles as a central tool, as it is not only seen as a transport mean, but is also used as a voluntary behaviour change factor.
Increase home-to-school and school-to-home travel by foot and by bike: The Children’s Street
The Pierre Loti School is situated in a social mixed area within a small district. An attractive park is situated in front of the school but the Pierre Loti Avenue, supporting 8,000 vehicles daily, disconnects this green area from the school. The parents are afraid to let the children go by bike or by foot to school and think that cars are the safestoption to take the children to school. Many of the school children do not even know how to ride a bike. For these reasons, the Mobility Department of the municipality contacted the school to see if together they could transform this busy road into a car-free street for a day. This provided the opportunity to the children to play in the street and in the park and have fun while learning how to ride a bike. The street in front of the school was closed for one day in June 2016 and May 2017.
The activities organised included: home to school escort by bicycle (organised by the bicycle Police Brigade/Bicycle School) and by foot (organised by the parents), a bike and games lending library, a bicycle training area, some workshops and information on bicycle repairs, biking safety, using public transport, free trial of different cargo bikes with bike stores.
This initiative has enabled the creation of a playground in the park next to the school and bicycle parking places. It also favoured inter-generational exchange between the school and the nearby retirement home. Parents launched a petition to have shared urban gardens in the park. It was decided that 60,000 euros will be spent by the municipality to set the garden up which will be open to all residents in the neighbourhood, including the retirement home. Besides, bike stores have increased their income and are selling more bikes, including foldable bikes and cargo bikes. Elected representatives, teachers and parents are now reflecting on how to include bike learning in the school programme.
The Children’s Street initiative is sustained by several activities. Following the 2 one-day events organised by the municipality, the school and the parents have organised on their own a 3rd event in April 2018, including a bike market and a party in the street, with the participation of associations. The municipality initiated the process and now parents, children and school teachers are responsible to organise such events in the future, with the municipality offering support, but not acting as a driving force anymore. In addition, other schools are interested by this initiative and a new Children’ Street with another school will be organised in a different neighbourhood.
Develop the attractiveness of commercial areas in the city centre
The first experiment took place in the old market place from July to August 2016. This place is today used as a big round-about for cars, reducing the space available for pedestrians. The shopkeepers would like to reduce the car’s presence but at the same time authorise freight access for the market in the morning. A modular access was therefore needed. A solution was found together to regulate the access, using colourful signs to mark the limits of the pedestrian zone during the event.
From July to August 2017, the second experiment was organised in the Saint-Nicolas district, a small shopping area, a little hidden away just behind the old harbour. The aim was to make this neighbourhood visible from far away and attract more people to this area. All the shops are small local shops and shopkeepers are struggling to attract more clients to the city centre, taking into account the competition of the huge commercial areas located outside of the city centre. Posters showcasing shop owners have been produced by the municipality, using the ENGAGE poster tool (www.citiesengage.eu). Shop owners could promote cycling on these posters that were displayed in their shops. An exhibition of ENGAGE posters has also been organised by the municipality, including posters with students, teachers, civil servants putting forward their different arguments for cycling.
The most significant result of these experiments is the change of mind set of shopkeepers who no longer claim “no car, no business”. More people are now shopping by bike as citizens realised that the cargo bike is faster than the car. This shows that it is important for people to have a voluntary behaviour change, but for that it is crucial that they try and experiment beforehand, so that they realise the advantages that a different lifestyle might bring. Shopkeepers are using bikes to buy their products and to dispose of their waste. Bike stores and shop owners have increased their income during this test phase, some of them by up to 25%. The shop owners’ association, gathering almost 100 members, are now reflecting on how to encourage shopping by biking and walking to make this lifestyle attractive to their potential customers and thus differentiate themselves from the big commercial centres on the outskirts of the city where customers need a car to shop there. The project has also brought more sociability, for example shop owners now put chairs outside of their shops, in order to invite passers-by to sit and appreciate the excellent quality of life in their city.
Living Streets: a modular experience for the city of La Rochelle
Living in an urban environment conceived for car use, makes it difficult for people to imagine and have another vision for the future of the public space in their city. The municipality of La Rochelle implemented
Living Streets as a motivating and modular experience allowing citizens to experiment different aspects of what life without a car means and see all the benefits that this might bring to them. However, with this experience, the municipality of La Rochelle does not aim for example to replicate the same children’s street in all schools, but a new concept based on the needs of each district. Each street is different and the municipality aims to keep the co-construction process that took place in the first children’s street. The
Living Streets enabled seeds to be planted for the future, provided time and space for first-hand experience and let things happen.
Contact: Birgitta Morin, Sustainable mobility officer, City of La Rochelle
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom
Milton Keynes (230,000 inhabitants) is a new town designed to be a regional hub between Birmingham and London and Oxford and Cambridge. It is one of the few British cities that was built 50 years ago with future growth in mind. Today, it is one of the fastest growing cities in the UK with an estimated population growth reaching more than 300,000 inhabitants by 2025 and 500,000 by 2050.
The challenge of implementing Living Streets in a new town
In MK the individual car is the main mode of transport, facilitated by a grid system similar to Los Angeles. Milton Keynes has few traffic lights and many roundabouts which makes driving around the city easy and the promotion of sustainable mobility more difficult.
However, there are 250 km of cycle and walking routes in MK, called “redways” that are completely independent from car traffic. MK has also many green spaces and sidewalks for pedestrians.
So, the challenge Living Streets faced here is to solve something that is not yet a problem as currently there is no traffic congestion, people are able to drive around the city easily and plenty of parking space is available. Nevertheless, by 2025 it is estimated that there will be a travel demand increase of 60% while practical capacity improvements will only address a 25% increase.
Community engagement establishes understanding between neighbours and promotes inclusivity. The Living Streets project is a great idea that fulfils this role and contributes to the positive vision we have for Milton Keynes in 2050 and beyond.
Councillor Peter Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council
Reaching out to local councillors, civil servants, stakeholders and citizens
Living streets encouraged departments in the Council working together that do not habitually collaborate such as the energy and culture departments.
For Living Streets, MK residents were approached in different neighbourhoods throughout the city. Enthusiasm for the project was shown on several occasions however each neighbourhood eventually declined this opportunity for several different reasons: lack of time, opposition of a few inhabitants who didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of Living Streets or the budget offered for implementing Living Streets was not appealing enough, particularly compared to the budget residents usually receive for initiatives such as creating a community orchard. In this car-centric city there is a real anxiety for most citizens about walking and riding a bicycle and residents are reluctant to make something unpopular happen in their neighbourhood. Having to think differently and give up parking their individual cars in front of their houses was difficult for most streets. Citizens seem to be happy with the quality of life they have in this 50-year-old city where they do not face traffic jams. Most citizens have no problems with finding parking spaces at home, leisure activities and at their place of work while still being able to enjoy green areas on their doorstep.
Looking forward to the project and no cars. I’d welcome more buses, especially running along Watling Street all the way to Bletchley.
A Milton Keynes citizen
I wish it would create parking spaces though, rather than lose them!
A Milton Keynes citizen
The conclusion is that people need to be encouraged to be involved in their street projects by starting small and taking baby steps. Focusing on their fears and worries, such as time spent commuting in their cars, would be a good starting point for Living Streets in the future. Gaining trust and support is a very slow process and initially the support offered by the MK Council was perceived as top down but it did improve over time.
What a lovely idea. I’ve often hoped that the top end of the High Street would be pedestrianised. This would make a huge difference to the Town.
A Milton Keynes citizen
The MK coordinator met with several not for profit organisations to discuss working together to make Living Streets happen in their area. This brought together like minded people and was a good way to reach active citizens in the MK communities. Meetings were arranged with local clubs, associations, residents’ associations and charities and mutual goals were realised. One collaboration resulted in meeting families at two events organised with the Milton Keynes Play Association and MK Council will continue to work with this organisation in the future.
We are acting as catalysts with local communities, encouraging people to have a say in how their street and quality of life could be improved. This is important because there is a general view that the council makes decisions from the top down.
Christine Ballard, Neil Sainsbury, Shane Downer, civil servants at MK Council
The Living Streets project provided a great way to meet citizens and learn more about what is important to their communities from those who live there. The work invested in this project has built relationships with citizens and broken down barriers in communication. This ground work will continue to reap benefits in future community projects.
Neil Allen, Head of Regulatory Services, Milton Keynes Council
Living Streets is planting a seed for the future
It is well known that personal transport is difficult to replace in the UK and particularly in Milton Keynes because it was designed for cars. However, some communities were willing to accept this restriction. Thames Valley police are interested in collaborating in Living Streets mainly because neighbours talking to each other means problems can be discussed. Furthermore, Town and Parish Councils are also familiar with Living Streets and are willing to proceed to some traffic restriction.
It was amazing to witness first-hand how the Living Streets Programme proved that streets can play such a fundamental role as an extension to private gardens and provide a place for residents to socially interact. When we visited Ghent, it was evident that streets can be the glue that knits residents together.
Neil Sainsbury, Head of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture
Living Streets have also had a positive influence on future planning strategies in a growing city where new neighbourhoods will be developed based on a more people-centric approach. This is the fruit of strategic municipal departments being involved in Living Streets and of the widespread understanding within MK Council of this initiative.
So, in Milton Keynes, the Living Streets initiative has planted seeds and supporters of the idea are waiting for conditions to become more fertile so results become real and visible.
Contact: Christine Ballard, Project Manager, Sustainability Team, Milton Keynes Council
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Inspired by the example of Ghent, the Living Streets in Rotterdam (630,000 inhabitants), called “Dream Streets”, started in 2015. They are defined as initiatives of citizens and/or professional organisations to make their street, square or neighbourhood a nicer place to meet and play by implementing temporary or permanent measures.
A cross-sector process to create Dream Streets
The Dream Streets take place within the framework of the “Citylab010 fund for local innovation” (2015-2018), containing an annual amount of three and a half million euros in total. All municipal departments are involved in the programme. With CityLab010, the Municipality of Rotterdam aims to generate and support initiatives that contribute to the further development and improvement of the main municipal policy challenges, such as: sustainability, economics, sports and culture. Via CityLab010 a grant fund is available, for proposals of local initiatives that can be submitted.
For each of the Living Streets implemented up till now in Rotterdam, a dedicated inter departmental team of 5-7 civil servants meet regularly before and during implementation of the specific Living Street. They advise the inhabitants on their plans and assist during implementation when needed. The Living Streets are managed by the Urban Planning department with a large involvement of the Traffic department and Maintenance department.
The process of Dream Streets in Rotterdam is as follows:
A new dream street initiative approaches the dream coach of the city of Rotterdam. He assists them in defining their plan and introduces them to the interdepartmental team (“Kendoe team”) which advises on the plan and budget. They also check that the planned activities comply with the regulations. This team meets once or twice and they help to further improve the project and give support and suggestions. Usually this process takes a couple of months. After this, the Living Street submits their proposal for funding by the Citylab010 programme.
The final proposal is assessed by the Living Street project manager. The interdepartmental team formulates the conditions for funding and the Living Street receives a subsidy contract. During implementation, civil servants assist and advise if needed. This means that in some Living Streets, there is a high level of involvement of the city administration, while in other Living Streets there is much less. In all cases, there are many formal and informal moments of contact between the Living Streets and the civil servants as often, civil servants attend the local Living Street events.
After implementation, each Living Street submits a financial and narrative report on the results. Thereafter, the civil servants and the inhabitants discuss together which of the temporary measures could be continued or become permanent. Evaluation is also done by the Living Street initiators, sometimes using monitoring equipment bought by the municipality, but also based on a qualitative analysis.
The Dream Streets activities and their impact in the streets and the municipality
13 Dream Streets were organised between 2015 and 2017, covering topics such as improving traffic safety, enhancing social cohesion, building permanent places to play and meet, greening communal gardens. Most Living Streets have a time span of one year in which they organise several activities, mainly in spring and summer when the weather is nice. The most represented social category is highly educated people, however some Living Streets are also taking place in socially and economically mixed neighbourhoods, where a professional organisation is needed to develop the plan and coordinate the project together with the citizens.
The Dream Streets have diverse impacts. First, they bring more social cohesion to the streets as well as an increased sense of ownership of the public space by residents. Besides, these experiments, before investing in permanent measures, enable the municipality to have more insights on what works well or not in the streets to enhance meeting and playing. Some measures then become permanent, such as reduced space for car parking, benches, small playgrounds and meetings places. These initiatives also have an impact on rethinking the role of the municipality: How do we cooperate with citizens? What do they expect from us? Are we capable to explain the municipal regulations for public space well enough and how do we manage to bend the rules without breaking them?
The successful experience in Rotterdam has raised a number of key questions:
How to deal with temporary versus permanent measures? Most permanent measures concern the installation of bike parks, benches and playgrounds. As this is public space, the city administration should implement these measures and citizens are not allowed to do this themselves. However, permanent measures need a budget, which is not always available. Some solutions were found by the residents, for instance via crowdfunding.
How to deal with initiatives from professional organisations?Professionals also approach the municipality with their ideas (like architects, urban planners) and find citizens to join them. How to ensure that the citizens feel and take ownership of the project? The municipality then considers that at least 10 residents from the street should support the proposal so that it can be accepted.
High diversity: not everything is a Dream Street! In Rotterdam, there is a high diversity of initiatives that qualify as Living Streets. This is also a risk, as not every local initiative is a Living Street. What to do with this diversity of proposals?
Do we “spoil” our Dream Streets? A Dream Street can receive a subsidy of up to 40,000 euros. The positive effect is that real changes can be made, the negative effect is that this may hinder creativity.
To what extent do we coach the initiators in engaging their neighbours and getting their support? Some initiators, especially in mixed neighbourhoods, find it difficult to approach all neighbours in their street and to involve them in the project. What kind of support should the municipal administration give them?
When is the support for the plan sufficient to continue and if not, how to deal with that? Most Living Streets are initiated by highly educated people. In socially and economically weaker neighbourhoods, professionals write and submit the proposals and involve the citizens in the implementation.
In Turin (985,000 inhabitants), thanks to a living lab gathering associations citizens and municipal departments, Living Streets have provided the opportunity to rethink the use of public space towards pedestrianisation in the residential district of Campidoglio.
A living lab in the Campidoglio district
Campidoglio (5,000 inhabitants) is mainly a residential district and it is also home to many local artists and craftsmen, but is not a touristic neighbourhood. Campidoglio is characterised by narrow streets, full of cars. Currently there is only one pedestrian street, but this is not really respected as people still continue to park and drive there. In this district residents are willing to take back the streets and organise something else in the public space. The municipality supported this process by proposing Laboratorio Campidoglio to facilitate meetings with the citizens, allowing contact among themselves, but letting them be the main contributors to the Living Streets activities.
To prepare the events, the municipality contacted all associations in the neighbourhood as well as the craftsmen. In June 2017 a world café workshop was organised involving about 30 participants to develop ideas for activities: What can we organise to make the area more liveable? All the ideas were discussed in terms of their feasibility and based on this a follow-up workshop was organised in July to define the agenda of the Living Streets event. Participants highlighted the need to make the borough more visible to its inhabitants but also from the outside so that is becomes more inclusive.
Citizens showed great interest and participation in the life of the borough: they are more aware of the nature and future of the area, which is not merely the pedestrianization, but also taking back the public spaces and making the neighbourhood more valued and lively. With the Living Streets, the citizens have realized the potential of the district where they live! We need to encourage people to go to this borough. But how? For instance, by opening shops on the street that arouse the curiosity of visitors.
Carlo Zanella, craftsman
In September and October 2017, two two-day Living Street events were co-organised with the active participation of the citizens, shops, schools and other associations within the neighbourhood. These events attracted numerous people outside of the area who came there for the first time.
A wide range of activities took place:
Painting workshop: One of the local artists in the neighbourhood proposed a painting workshop with children on the topic “what neighbourhood would you like in the future?”.
Consultation of citizens who were asked to imagine the neighbourhood with different modes of mobility, what kind of possibilities they see to change this area into a pedestrian zone and also what street furniture they would need to make this area more comfortable. Citizens suggested to have benches, plants, public furniture. Urban furniture was installed with the help of a group of citizens already involved in urban agriculture.
Role play with the primary school: Role play involves imitating the character and behaviour of someone who is different from yourself. Children were playing roles such as a disabled person, a mum with a pushchair and little children, so that they could see with the eyes of the role they were playing which were the problems of the area. After the tour of the neighbourhood they could come back with difficulties they faced and they were aware of, allowing them to reimagine the Campidoglio district without all these issues. Some children were playing the policemen, putting papers with messages on cars that were not appropriately parked. These were not real fines, so were positively perceived. The message was simply saying: “And me, where can I go?”.
Art exhibition: Local artists from the neighbourhood organised an art exhibition, including paintings with sights from the Campidoglio district. This allowed some artists to be promoted and be more well-known while making people discover specific spots in the neighbourhood illustrated in the paintings.
Debate on future activities: A debate was organised to think about what should be done after the Living Streets event. Citizens appreciated that Living Streets made connections between them and now they are growing as a group and want to be more autonomous. This ensures that at the end of the project citizens still want to act and continue this process.
The impact: a collaborative project that brings more social interaction to the district
The Living Streets events confirm that the citizens wish to revitalise the public area in Campidoglio. Traffic and parking were the most debated themes during this experiment. Thereafter it was officially decided that by the end of 2018, part of the Campidoglio area will be pedestrianised and this is causing a big turmoil in the district. The majority of the inhabitants are satisfied with it, but some are worried about the toll parking or the distance of the car parks from their home. Residents will need time to integrate the transformation in their daily lives, but the first impression is that there is a general acceptance of this decision.
An important part of Campidoglio will be pedestrianised: this result certainly represents a positive outcome because it closes a long path of confrontation and positional conflict and inaugurates a phase of concrete definition of solutions for the future of the district. Now a stable group of citizens is acting as intermediary with the District and meets regularly in order to discuss the improvement of the area. Without a doubt, this happens thanks to the “constructive” climate created by Living Streets.
Claudio Cerrato, President of the District, City of Torino
The social cohesion in the neighbourhood has considerably increased and a discreet number of citizens now meet regularly to discuss issues regarding the daily life of the borough. Schools, commercial activities and citizens are aware of the importance to exchange ideas and listen to each other in order to make proposals and implement them together. New activities have been created following the Living Streets events: the creation of a monthly street market of arts and crafts made in Campidoglio, as well as urban gardening activities with citizens and schools.
In Zadar (75,000 inhabitants), the Living Streets were organised in the Voštarnica neighbourhood, a derelict area nearby the historical city centre. The aim was to revive this abandoned space by bringing it back to the citizens and turn this part of the city into a central point for gathering people by organising arts and cultural events.
Bringing neglected areas back to life: making the Voštarnica of tomorrow visible to all!
The area was neglected and most residents avoided it, being used only for parking cars on three big parking slots which are crowded the whole year. This is precisely the key aspect that the municipality wished to change by using Living Streets to show another perspective of this area to the citizens, allowing them to see the potential to host other activities rather than merely parking cars.
In Zadar, the Living Streets were linked to a local festival called Kvart Art (neighbourhood art festival) and it was decided to use this opportunity to create more than 80 activities during the event taking place in this derelict area. Even during time slots with no activities, people could still come and socialise, recognising this area as a key meeting point. This allowed different social groups and ages, from children to seniors, to gather and mingle.
The Living Streets initiative also received political support from the Mayor who was directly involved and participated in the initiative.
Preparatory activities: changing perspectives and future of the area
Prior to the event, important preparatory activities took place. The area was cleaned, the parking lots were rearranged, the public space was prepared, flowers and trees were planted. Local residents were involved in rearranging this public space, in the gardening and watering of the plants.
Also some exhibitions, master classes and an architecture workshop were organised. In this workshop young architects were thinking on how to refurbish this area and how to improve the space. The ideas were based on low budget solutions that can be implemented in short time. The citizens could express their views on the future of this area via a survey and via a big common board where all citizens could write their ideas.
Get inspired by Zadar’s activities!
The Living Streets was officially opened via a metaphoric performance when citizens could break a cardboard wall, symbolically showing the barriers to a liveable Voštarnica neighbourhood. Different tools were provided to citizens (chalk, spray cans, etc.) that they could use to mark their visions for the future of the area on a big white screen. An idea box was also provided, gathering suggestions that were used at a later stage by a team of architects presenting future low-budget solutions for the area, based on the needs and dreams of the residents.
To allow residents to picture their area car-free and see all the potential of it in terms of socialising and a better quality of life, during the Living Streets a set of activities was proposed every day. Below is a list of activities for inspiration:
Change of perspective: members of the local firefighters came with their vehicle every weekend and they used the crane to lift people up in the air so that they can have a different view on the area from high above and realise the impact of transforming it from a space dedicated to cars (parking lots) into a space dedicated to people.
Book exchange picnic: local craftsmen made wooden houses to store the books and placed them outside of the public library, on one of the parking lots which was transformed for this period in an enjoyable place with flowers and trees. Residents could exchange their preferred books and read them outside. This construction is now there permanently and residents are still using it.
Electric bike presentation: this involved different local bike shops promoting electric bikes and residents were able to try them free of charge on the day.
Family activities: music concerts for children, archery workshops, and children chess championships.
Souvenir development creative workshop: this involved seniors, with the support of the Eco Zadar association.
An open space cinema, followed by a movie quiz.
Physical theatre workshop: focusing on the body and physical acting in theatre.
Outdoor theatrical performances, puppet shows.
Development of lighting installations: residents could create their own lighting installation.
Sunrise breakfast: this included activities supporting healthy lifestyles (education, training, running, healthy food for breakfast).
Music concerts were organised with the performance of the well-known guitar player, Miroslav Tadić (traditional and alternative playing), involving more than 500 people coming to this abandoned place (skate park). The guitarist invited everyone to hang out in the parking transformed in a living room and this turned into a big after-party that was very successful, allowing residents to socialise.
Alternative music and journalism workshops with famous journalists.
Graffiti and art performances: citizens could have an active role in the graffiti workshops and were invited to ask questions and express themselves.
Sport activities: mountain climbing with local associations, children’s sports Olympics.
Public viewing of the football game (like the movie night) with a barbecue.
There was a positive atmosphere during the entire festival and Living Streets revealed that the Voštarnica neighbourhood has a great potential to become a place for social interaction of the residents in the area, but also of all citizens of Zadar.
In 2018, the City of Zadar is continuing with the initiative, but this time in close collaboration with 4 local institutions and associations.
What was the impact?
The experience shows that in the derelict area concerned, the people’s acceptance increased concerning the closing of the parking lots to the cars and transforming them into public space dedicated to the people.
There was also a snow ball effect as the participants in the Kvart Art festival are thinking about the future of their own neighbourhood now, in different parts of the city and on how to turn the parking lots in their own districts into other initiatives than just space for parking cars.
It seems the first Living Streets experiment in Zadar is an eye opener for politicians, the administration and the citizens on the potential of this neighbourhood and the festival will be organised every year while permanently reorganising this area, transitioning from cars to citizens.
Contact: Stefani Mikulec Perković, Head of the Section for Integrated Territorial Investment, Department of EU funds, City of Zadar Josip Milić, Head of the Section for Preparation and Implementation of EU Projects, City of Zadar
Ghent – the inspiration
The Ghent pioneering
Imagine your neighbour knocking on your door: “Hi, how are you? Do you have a few minutes? I have an idea I want to share with you… Imagine that we could temporarily transform our street into a beautiful green meeting place for the neighbourhood? We would remove the cars, just for a few months and see what happens. What do you think?”
In 2013, precisely these kind of simple questions inspired the inhabitants of the first two Living Streets. In the meantime, the Living Street triggered the imagination of hundreds of citizens and led to more than 50 Living Streets in Ghent and inspired many other cities.
Dreaming of a sustainable and social future Thanks to Living Streets, hundreds of citizens in Ghent could work together to create a street of their own. After dreaming and coming up with ideas, the residents rolled up their sleeves, unrolled the turf, set up barbecues, created meeting places and so much more. By creating their own Living Street, these citizens were experimenting with the sustainable mobility of the future, creating a new approach to urban space and reinforcing social links by multiplying interactions among citizens
New ways of co-creation The Living Streets explored and developed new ways of collaboration among the citizens in Ghent, municipal services, companies and many more city stakeholders. They were doing this by challenging each other in a smart way in terms of thinking, acting, understanding one another and learning.
The Ghent Living Streets demonstrated how to put co-creation in practice to find creative solutions for social challenges. All parties involved have always seen Living Streets as an experiment: successes and failures provide lessons for anyone keen to continue building Living Streets.
For the citizens, a Living Street functions as a common project and as such, an impulse for dialogue and dynamics with their neighbours, other street users and the municipality. During the experiment, they look for answers and solutions to problems that arise while organising the Living Street. Knowledge, experience and concepts are tested in a learning-by-doing approach that will make life easier in the unfolding sustainable and sociable city.
It all started in Ghent The Living Street is the result of a project initiated by the City of Ghent. In 2012 the City asked a group of citizens, entrepreneurs and civil servants to imagine a sustainable future for their city. Their vision can be found in their agenda for the future: a network of car-free zones built around central squares, with rapid transit bike lanes, public transit, and neighbours talking in the street (“The Trojan bike”). The group realised that only a vision by itself would not change the world. To make it really happen, they launched concrete experiments, such as the Living Street (“Leefstraat”) and tried to make their dreams of the city of tomorrow visible today.
The power of a temporary network The front-runners of the first hour organised themselves for a couple of years in a temporary network: The Trojan Lab. The Lab connects collaborating citizens, businesses, city services and organisations in Ghent to bring about a new way of city governance. The Lab -through its unique approach- demonstrates that structural changes are possible and that experimenting and envisioning are solutions which can take away humans’ innate resistance to change. This approach can help to achieve sustainable, sociable and climate-neutral cities in a better, faster and co-creative way.
About EUKI – Living Streets
Living Streets project aims at supporting residents to transform their streets temporarily into the sustainable place they have always dreamed of. It is the result of a pilot initiated by the City of Ghent. In 2012 they asked a group of citizens, entrepreneurs and civil servants to imagine a sustainable future for their city. Their vision became part of their agenda for the future: a network of car-free zones built around central squares, with rapid transit bike lanes, public transit, and neighbours talking in the street. The group realised that only a vision by itself would not change the world. To make it really happen, they launched concrete experiments, the Living Streets (“Leefstraat”) and tried to make their dreams a reality.
Based on the experience gained by Ghent’s Living Streets and the lessons learnt from the EU funded project Living Streets, this new project will support additional cities from Croatia, Greece and Portugal to develop and implement their Living Streets concept. Through the involvement of local stakeholders and citizens, they will redefine the socio-economic and the aesthetic dimension of streets within the urban development framework. Each living street experiments new forms of city life, with less cars and more social interaction, as designed by all stakeholders and answering to local needs.
Main objectives of EUKI Living Streets project
To increase the capacity of networks and cities in Croatia, Greece and Portugal to engage with their citizen and on energy issues;
To experiment on the ground via the implementation of Living Streets during which selected streets are temporarily closed for 1-2 months to cars and citizens can try-out a car free lifestyle
To impact the local spatial planning and mobility policies with practical feedback from the temporary experiments.
In Brussels, Belgium, based on a call for applications 8 Living Streets were organised in different neighbourhoods between 2016 and 2018. They tackled various problems such as safety and street prostitution, the need for positive facilitation of public spaces and ownership by the inhabitants, green spaces, public works and need for silence, a ‘residential zone’ for meeting, sharing between inhabitants and a public space shared between pedestrians and cars.