“We Just Held Our First Play Street – Here’s What Made It a Success”
Words by Jack Hunter (Walk Ride Whalley Range)
Last Sunday, residents of York Avenue, in Whalley Range, held our first play street. With permission from the council, and help from Walk Ride Whalley Range, we closed our road to through traffic for an afternoon. Residents’ cars were still able to come and go, and the street was open to allow for chat and play.
Despite the rain, it was a really great day, with neighbours sitting out on a road that is more used to seeing speeding cars. Everyone benefited from a day with less traffic on a residential street, and there was lots of opportunity to talk about how we might make our street nicer and safer.
Here’s a few things that made it successful:
We made a big effort to let everyone know ahead of time
Our street has a well used WhatsApp group, originally set up as a mutual aid group during the COVID-19 pandemic. This was really useful to gauge interest and let people know what was happening. We also posted flyers through the doors of residents, as well as those on neighbouring streets and local businesses. Mindful of the mix of people who live in our neighbourhood, someone provided an Urdu translation to go on the flyers.
Everyone mucked in
Because we’d let everyone know, lots of our lovely neighbours then helped in various ways to make it a success. As well as those who helped set up, and those who were road stewards on the day, we had donations of chairs and equipment. Someone helped with printing, someone else with the translation to ensure we were being as inclusive as possible. Others helped post our flyers. It was a brilliant team effort and, because so many people got involved, it was lots of fun.
We didn’t make it into an ‘event’
A play street is not a street party – it’s an experiment, designed to test what your road would be like if it was designed for people, rather than cars. We wanted it to look and feel as though it could be a normal day, not a one-off event. Keeping it low key was also essential given the local lockdown in Manchester – given the rules around gatherings and social distancing, we definitely didn’t want big crowds of people in our road.
We did lots of talking and listening
There’s lots of interest on our street about how to tackle speeding. The play street was a great opportunity to talk together about what we could do, working with the council where necessary. In the days afterwards, we circulated a short, anonymous survey on our WhatsApp group to get feedback and suggestions for how to improve it next time.
We’re keeping the momentum!
Everyone has been super positive about the day, so we’re already planning our next one in September. If people are up for it, we could even think about doing it much more regularly.
Manchester City Council have recently announced steps to encourage people to hold play streets, including removing the application fee previously attached to similar traffic orders. If you are living in Whalley Range and are interested in organising a play street for your road, email WhalleyRange@WalkRideGM.org.uk for support and help to make it happen.
If you live elsewhere in Greater Manchester, check our list of local groups, and if there isn’t one where you live then get in touch with Walk Ride GM for support on how to go about finding people who also want to improve their streets and forming a Walk Ride subgroup together – email@example.com.