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Earlier this year, our Youth Campaign Officer, Ladajah Wilson, visited the University of Exeter to talk to students about their experiences on walking. Here, she tells us what she learned from these conversations.

As a young person who’s at university, I wanted to hear from other students about what they enjoyed and disliked about walking. I wanted to see how we could create a more accessible and enjoyable experience of walking for students and what wider issues, like personal safety, needed to be tackled.

At Living Streets, we're committed to helping young people take action on issues, which is why we are developing resources to help young people campaign and to start a Living Streets Local Group.  

We wanted to motivate students to make a positive change locally. We know the value of having young people involved in our campaigns, which is why we’re developing a Youth Campaign Kit as part of our work with universities.  

When I visited, it was Go Green Week at the University of Exeter, so we held a stall and ran a street review, where we look at streets to see what could be improved to make walking more accessible. This helped students notice problems on their local streets and informed them about some of the campaigns we run, like Better Crossings and tackling pavement parking. By offering a led walk we were able to explore accessibility and provision for people walking and wheeling around campus and the connecting town so that we could identify key areas for improvement.

At our stall, we asked students questions about walking and created a board with sticky notes to display their thoughts and opinions about walking around campus and in Exeter. We also wanted to gain feedback to input into Devon Council’s active travel plan for the city from a student and youth perspective. In addition, we talked about starting a Local Group with Living Streets to initiate change and improvements across the university campus and wider walking environment. We heard from many students about the positives around walking, including how the walking paths and surrounding nature allow them to enjoy the pleasure of walking.

We also heard about Exeter’s green dot initiative on campus. If you see a green dot on the floor, it means that it’s a spot where CCTV can see you. The students have called for this to be further expanded around the city due to their fear of walking home at night in the dark.

There were also calls to increase the number of streetlights in Exeter, especially in areas with low foot traffic. LED lights are a good option as they are energy-efficient and long-lasting. More street lighting would help to create a safer environment for pedestrians, which is critical for young people as car ownership is low and they mostly walk or cycle. We heard from so many students about their concerns around personal safety walking to and from the library or from going out, particularly during winter where the shorter days make this unavoidable.

Students also wanted to improve the pedestrian crossings as they currently feel that they pose a danger. One student told me that ‘the pedestrian crossings are terrible by the Vic, I’ve nearly been ran over four times there’.

Through speaking to students, we gained a deeper understanding of how young people can be supported to create their own campaigns. As part of this work, we have created an online Youth Campaign Kit which includes a workbook and ‘how to’ videos. To keep the conversation going, we are sending the campaign kit to the students from Exeter to inspire them to start a Local Group and feed their ideas for change directly to the council.

Living Streets is committed to improving road safety for pedestrians by decreasing the time pedestrians are waiting at the lights to cross, which was part of our Better Crossings campaign, and improving walking infrastructure by widening pavements and creating more dropped curbs.

If you want to get active at your university, you can start a Living Streets Local Group. Please get in touch to find out more.