Open Streets in Chorlton

Groundwork Greater Manchester, WalkRide GM, Sustrans, Open Data Manchester and The University of Manchester have been working for the past 12 months on Our Streets Chorlton, a partnership project that allows residents to be the decision makers in changing their streets for the better.

Introducing Open Streets

In 2021 the Our Streets Chorlton team worked with residents, Manchester City Council and the Highways Department to trial two three full day ‘Open Streets’ – where people were prioritised over cars.

Road closures took place on Westfield Road and Burrows Avenue, two very different types of streets in Chorlton.

Access was permitted to residents on both streets; driving was permitted at a walking pace and diversion routes were chosen to divert traffic back onto bigger capacity roads. Residents were encourage to choose walking and cycling during the closure as well as attend a range of events and activities from lightening talks to children’s play events.

George Coombs, Our Streets Chorlton Project Coordinator at Groundwork, commented:

“We wanted to make it easier for people to come out on the street because families were saying that their children couldn’t usually go out to play anywhere. During the open street, local children who had previously never played with each other could be seen having a great time using their bikes on the road and neighbours who didn’t know each other were out chatting. I think that some parents even struggled to get their kids back in the house at the end of the day!”


Burrows Avenue Open Street

Following the three day Open Street event on Burrows Avenue residents reported:

  • 100% of residents said they felt children were safer during the closure
  • 93% of residents agreed that the event brought the community together
  • 93% of residents said they were happy or very happy with the event overall
  • 80% of residents reported that there were fewer speeding cars during the event

Burrows Avenue resident, Mike Lever told Our Streets Chorlton:

“The social aspect was huge – it got people out chatting with one another. The road was much quieter throughout the day. People normally use our road a lot because there are no speed bumps, unlike parallel roads. It feels like people are becoming proud of where they live and are taking ownership of it. Everyone seems to want to improve the street as a whole.”

Councillor Mandie Shilton Godwin, who attended the Open Street Burrows Avenue, said:

“There were a good range of things for people to do and people had a go at them all! The organisation was really good, and it was clear that the staff had worked hard to make the open street work, which people can sometimes overlook. When I spoke to residents, they seemed keen to have something like that in the longer term. I would do it over a wider area, but I understand the difficulty in that. I would have liked to get more local groups and organisations involved by working with them in advance.”

Councillor Joanna Midgley also attended and added:

“The timing of activities was good because it captured people coming home from school and the whole thing had a really good buzz about it. There was something for everybody to do and it gave a glimpse into what life would be like without cars speeding along the road. I think the three days worked well in allowing people to see that impact.”


Westfield Road Open Street

Following the three day Open Street event on Westfield Road residents reported:

  • 100% of residents said they were happy or very happy with the event overall
  • 100% of residents agreed that the event brought the community together
  • 89% of residents reported that there were fewer speeding cars during the event
  • 78% of residents reported that they learnt more about active travel options

Westfield Road resident, Nick Dixon expressed his positivity around the project and said:

“Having a big focus on the environment and traffic helped to give it a real purpose. We learnt a lot from the lightning talks that were put on because it gave us information and the strength to know what to do with it. Often, people feel powerless, but we felt like we were part of a movement and not just an individual worrying about how to tackle climate change on their own.”

Councillor Eve Holt, who was involved in the project right from its beginnings, said:

“I grew up on these streets so I have a real sense of care and connection to them that I learned to walk and ride by bike on. In Greater Manchester, 30% of all car journeys are less than a 1km, and a lot of these are in places like Chorlton. We have some of the highest emissions, so we have the responsibility to do more here and you have to take people with you on that journey by finding ways to engage people so they feel like they can take action. People need to know that governments, councils and councillors are all playing a role, and then understand what role they can also play on their streets to address the climate emergency. My aspiration is that more people feel like they can make change locally and that they feel better connected and hopeful about what is happening as a whole.”

Since the Open Street, residents on Westfield Road have been keeping in touch with one another on WhatsApp messenger and are actively planning to reduce emissions on their street, for example by retrofitting and installing solar panels.

Resident Karen O’Keeffe added:

“We feel like we’ve got the weight of voices behind us now and the open street definitely gave us all some direction. It was well-attended and everyone enjoyed the refreshments especially – having somewhere to grab coffee gave us a central focus point.”

Both Nick and Karen agreed that the Open Street might have run more smoothly on a warmer evening and are therefore hoping for something similar next spring, but aren’t ruling out a special Christmas version to bring their neighbourhood together in festivity.

 


Final thoughts

George added, “We’re looking forward to making further connections with communities and making the project about what the community wants – led by the people. Starting conversations and reimagining how streets can be used. Getting neighbours to feel empowered to make lasting change and see the results of their input is a wonderful thing.”

If you would like to get involved in the Our Streets Chorlton project please get in touch via hello@ourstreetschorlton.co.uk