Streets for people in 2020

Activating city streets to support more walking, wheeling, and biking.

How can cities maintain pandemic restrictions while encouraging people to get outside and have fun? By making sure people have enough space.

In May 2020, the City of New Westminster passed the Streets for People in 2020 motion, allowing City staff to accelerate already planned reallocations of road space. Streets for People in 2020 supported more walking, wheeling, and biking on streets, sidewalks, greenways and in business areas of New Westminster. It accelerated other City initiatives to increase the use of sustainable modes of transportation, and contributed to the City’s goal of reallocating 10% of road space to sustainable transportation modes by 2030.

Happy Cities worked with HUB CyclingPasqua Consulting, and the City of New Westminster to develop an implementation plan, conduct a public life study, engage people through pop-ups and focused engagement, and deliver activation events to raise public awareness and support for the Streets for People in 2020 initiative.

Results of the street transformations

As part of this project, our team conducted a public life study to gather detailed data on how the street transformations impacted people’s wellbeing through their experiences in public space.

What did we observe? Based on survey data and qualitative and quantitative observation, we found that the Streets for People sites had a positive impact on all four of our measures—sociability, trust, meaning and belonging, and safety—when compared to control sites. Although results varied by gender and race, reinforcing the need for an intersectional approach to urban planning, the study demonstrated that overall, reallocating road space away from cars to modes of active transportation can go a long way in boosting wellbeing for New West residents.

Here’s a snapshot of our results:

  • Overall, 3.4 times more people were observed at intervention sites versus at control sites. And, Streets for People sites reflected a higher share of seniors, female-presenting people, and people using mobility devices.
  • Sociability: People were more likely to want to meet friends at Streets for People site, but even more remarkably, they were more likely to want to meet new strangers.
  • Trust: People expressed a greater sense of trust in strangers at Streets for People sites than control sites, with 35% responding that they believed it was likely a stranger would return a lost wallet at intervention sites.
  • Meaning and belonging: At Streets for People sites, 70% of people agreed with the statement, “This location reflects my community,” compared to only 55% at control sites.
  • Safety: People reported feeling much safer, with 85% indicating they felt safe visiting Streets for People sites alone compared to only 56% feeling safe visiting control sites alone.

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