Cat Kenyon from Haringey Living Streets Group talks about the realities of setting up a local group. From a handful of interested residents a year ago, the group has now grown to 150 and has supported six ward level groups to mobilise on low traffic neighbourhoods.
Photo by the Haringey Group Taken before physical distancing measures were in place
‘I decided I wanted to start a Living Streets group while I was on maternity leave with my youngest son. I had spent much of this time in the local area, travelling around on foot or bus, with two young kids in tow. All too often the experience ranged from deeply frustrating to frightening. From dangerous driving, pavements blocked by parked cars, streets which were heavily polluted, or spaces which attracted anti-social behaviour, it felt like so much could be improved.
Via social media, I started speaking to another local parent called Tom, who was equally frustrated with the status quo. Together we reached out to Living Streets to start the process of setting up our group. Since then we have organised public events, held our first borough wide campaign linking healthy streets to climate change, and have mobilised members at both borough and ward level.
Find Your Core Base
Social media pages like Twitter and Facebook were very helpful for finding our first campaigners. We reached out on sustainability pages, parent groups, and to residents’ associations to find people who might want to get involved. We organised a public event on low traffic neighbourhoods with speakers from London Living Streets Group. It was a key moment to raise awareness on the principles of our group, and to build our core membership.
Reframe the Discussion
For too long healthy streets/active travel had not been seen as a priority by decision makers in our community. As a group we were clear that we wanted to better communicate that this is a social justice issue at its heart. Residents in more deprived areas are three times more likely to be involved in road traffic incidents. The communities that have access to the fewest cars tend to suffer from the highest levels of air pollution. The ambition of Living Streets, is not just about healthier and greener streets, but fairer streets too.
Representation is important. Does your local group reflect the community you are trying to represent? All too often I started by having conversations with people who looked and sounded like me. Instead, we are now working to ensure that we have a range of voices in our groups, and it’s worth considering how you can achieve this from the outset.
The announcement of a climate emergency in our borough was a perfect opportunity to work with other local campaigning groups. We met with the Haringey Cycling Campaign to develop five asks to our local council to help us tackle the climate emergency. We reached out to climate change activists across the community to ask for their support too. In June 2019 we presented our asks to the Leader of Haringey Council.
Photo by the Haringey Group Taken before physically distancing measures were in place