A sort of street revolution

It’s all happening. This week sees subversion springing up in every direction…

On Sunday there will be a workshop in a local cafe for anyone in the area who’d like to start a play street, led by London Play and us play street organisers. We are still the only play street in the borough, and that needs to change.

On the poster we asked people to let us know if they plan to come, to get an idea of numbers. As the responses came in we had to move the meeting from ‘a couple of tables at the back of the cafe’ (12 people) to ‘the private room hired out by the cafe’ (20 people) and nearly to ‘a larger venue’ (about 30 people). We’ve decided to stick with the cafe’s private room and go for a cosy shoulder-to-shoulder arrangement where not everyone gets to sit down, which feels suitably subversive, a bit like the upper room at Pentecost in fact…

‘It’s the start of a revolution!’ said one neighbour when I told her. It will be if everyone who comes along follows through and starts a play street – I think at least 10 local streets are represented.

Then on Tuesday, us play street organisers are going to a design workshop to help plan changes to our residential area, as part of the ‘Quieter Neighbourhoods’ scheme. (This in turn is part of the cycling fund the borough won under the mayor’s Mini Holland scheme.) So I am looking forward to opining about how unsuitable our residential streets currently are for anything other than parking on and driving down. Funny that this week I seem to have seen the highest number ever of cars accelerating down our street at 50, 60 miles an hour. They turn into our road to avoid the traffic lights on the high street, see a nice straight one-way empty stretch, and put their foot down. I spend the rest of my walk to school plotting against them. My favourite but least practical idea so far is that sensors on the road would pick up a car breaking the speed limit – and trigger a dummy of a small child to pop up in its path, which the car would be forced to hit at speed. The driver would probably never sleep, let alone drive, again. (I realise though that they might swerve, flip over the parked cars and into a front room, exploding the boiler and causing a fire which would start a chain reaction of boilers along the street and eventually reduce the whole place to rubble. But at least the street could be rebuilt to be more people-friendly, so hey, every cloud has its silver lining.)

Hopefully the design workshop will come up with ideas that are a little more practical.

And finally Wednesday sees the start of the consultation process for the Mini Holland plans themselves. There will be an exhibition on the cycle lane plans for our area in the local pub and questionnaires to fill in. The small but noisy group of (a minority of) local shopkeepers are already encouraging people to protest at the damage the cycle lanes are apparently going to do to business on the high street, if they remove the parking bays which are, according to them, their very lifeblood. Never mind that there is a largely underused car park less than two minutes’ walk from the high street. My fingers are worn to the bone already from arguing with them on Facebook.

In fact I have started to bypass the complainers, the council and the mayor himself by taking this all to a higher authority. I’ve found myself more than once praying for the provision of cycle lanes when I’ve been out on the high street. Can’t do any harm. I hear that prayer and public prayer vigils played a big role in bringing down the Berlin Wall, so for God’s urban planning department, this is surely small fry.

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