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Environment / Climate change

Charity replaces parking spaces with gardens on a Birmingham high street

So, here’s a cool thing that happened. Sustrans, the British sustainable transport charity, has been closing parking spaces in Birmingham in order to turn them into gardens, and give Brummies a brief glimpse of a street cafe culture.

On Saturday 16 August, with the permission of the city’s council, it took control of 17 parking bays in Kings Heath High Street, and replaced them with turf and bistro-style street furniture.

Birmingham, for those who haven’t had the pleasure, is one of England’s biggest cities, but its transport system remains depressingly car-based. Kings Heath train station, on the suburban Camp Hill line, closed in 1941 as a “war time economy measure”. The economy recovered; the railway line never did, and remains closed to this day.

Consequently, when residents of Kings Heath want to get somewhere, they tend to drive. Here’s how the High Street looks normally:

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And here’s how it looked after Sustrans got involved:

Sustrans claims the closure meant traffic moved more smoothly (fewer cars slowing things up by trying to park), and local shoppers had a more pleasant trip, too. By closing some of the parking spaces, Sustrans hoped to create wider pavements, and start a debate about the best use of public space. Sadly, though, this experiment was a one-off, and the street is now back to normal. A couple of weeks earlier, Sustrans alsoclosed half a dozen Kings Heath streets on a Wednesday afternoon, and painted them in bright colours to invite the kids to play on them:

It’s almost like streets are nicer when they’re made for people rather than cars, isn’t it?

Images: Photo of traffic on Kings Heath courtesy of John Garghan, taken from Flickr under a creative commons licence. All other images via Sustrans.
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