Living streets, from citizen engagement to citizen ownership

A guidebook for municipalities

This guidebook will inspire you if you are in the process of rethinking public space in your city.
For many years the space in the city has been taken away from the people and given to the automobile. As we look out of the window onto a congested street, another lane for cars was simply added or new roads were built. But we cannot perpetuate this model by expanding road infrastructure to unlimited levels
Urban planning and mobility is all about people. They congregate in cities to work but also to meet, seeking casual or informal interaction and support that makes people thrive.
Public space is also essential from a social and economic point of view.

In 2012 the City of Ghent asked residents what kind of sustainable city they envisioned for the future and created the necessary space for experimentation. This space was key for new ideas to be developed and implemented. The Trojan Lab came up with the concept of Living Streets based on a series of concrete experiments to materialise the residents’ vision. The Trojan Lab is an independent network of collaborating citizens, businesses, civil servants and organisations and developed with the support of the municipality of Ghent.

Living Streets started with the question “What if?”

  • What if our street would be covered with grass?
  • What if I could have breakfast with my neighbours in the street?
  • What if the noise of cars passing by would be replaced by the laughter of children?

To answer these questions, the residents of Ghent came up with concrete ideas and plans to move forward and they took care of implementation, maintenance and organisation. Furthermore, Living Streets are labs for new ideas, innovative products, services and even academic research and the municipality gained invaluable perspectives from it. They got to learn what residents wanted from their environment, learned new ways of approaching challenges and collected data on what worked, what did not and why.