May 21, 2021 0 Comments
Our Most Liveable Place blog has been quiet for a while, but we have been busy working in the background to offer support to both Liverpool City Council and City Region Combined Authority through the Tranche 1 and 2 bids for Emergency Active Travel Fund (which achieved almost £10M funding). The city has been through a challenging time of late, not least in regard of issues relating to Highways & Planning.
However, this is a time for hope for positive change that can move us closer to our ambition of making Liverpool the Most Liveable Place. We look optimistically to a better future under the leadership of a new Mayor and Cabinet who we hope share our vision for the city region.
For those of you that have not been following our story, a trial commenced at Liverpool Crown Court yesterday. This incident was the catalyst for our project, when on 28 February 2019 a road traffic collision resulted in the death of two cyclists, Clare Killey and Anthony Cope. This crash, the latest of (far too) many, brought us together to imagine ways in which we can make a difference and transform Liverpool from being the most dangerous place in the UK to walk or ride a bike to become the Most Liveable Place.
Richard J. Dunning loves Liverpool. Below he celebrates the numerous attributes that make this place the unique and vibrant world class city it is. He also shines a light on how we can make it even better...
Liverpool is boss. But not always. But it could be.
The city’s core and waterfront are in the world class category for architecture and have received global recognition (1). Liverpool is rightly known for its musical prowess, exporting tunes internationally and receiving touring superstars; it has an outstanding philharmonic orchestra and the British Music Experience, although I’m still waiting for the Atomic Kitten museum to open. Physically, it boasts the UK’s biggest open-air shopping centre, two distinctive cathedrals, the world’s largest brick warehouse and, when Liverpool was selected as the northern headquarters of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a lunchtime promenade of Zara monochrome suits patrolling the docks. The people are friendly, two giant football clubs, a claim to the oldest Chinese community in Europe, scouse pie, independent theatres (including a RIBA Stirling Prize winning building) and a superlambanana. Liverpool is boss.
But not always. At least, not always for residents. The city’s glamour masks an uglier side: it is massively unequal. Income, deprivation, life expectancy and proximity to hazards are all unevenly distributed across the city. Neighbourhood level inequalities are rampant. As a mainstream hipster wannabe, I can find numerous neighbourhoods to fulfil my every oat milk flat white dream. But, there are other neighbourhoods that haven’t been left behind, because they were never given a fair chance at success in the first place.
How can a city be great when all its neighbourhoods are not great? It’s like someone turning up on the club run with a carbon disk wheel on the back and a MTB wheel on the front.
Liverpool isn’t known for being a great city to cycle in. Because it’s not. But, we’re trying to change that. Superhighways have been planned to complement some of the great trail routes through the city and (with many thanks to the recent Cycling and Walking Officer Jayne Rogers) planners are on point with discussions of low traffic neighbourhoods.
Low traffic neighbourhoods; Woonerf; the 20-minute neighbourhood; or the 15-minute city, as they are variously called, are the zeitgeist of urban planning. Urbanistas point to
Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo’s 20-minute neighbourhoods with awe, and blog posts – like this one – are filled with hopes to localise cities and make sure residents' needs are met close to their homes. The idea is relatively simple; your daily and weekly needs should be met within a 10-minute walk or cycle, in each direction, of your home. It’s a compelling, low-carbon, community-based, service-driven, cycling friendly vision. It’s a vision that is rapidly becoming reality in neighbourhoods across the UK.
Who wouldn’t want to live in an area where public spaces could be used for residents rather than as a track for 1 tonne, polluting, civilian tanks? Kids playing in the streets; grannies sipping lapsang souchong; neighbours chatting harmoniously; people living three years longer from not passively breathing in air pollution (2); and people able to cycle with a reduced fear of being killed or injured by those civilian tanks.
Low traffic neighbourhoods; 20-minute neighbourhoods; woonerf; whatever they’re called, they’re all belters for residents. Not unambiguously brilliant, but brilliant, nonetheless. But, they’re brilliance is problematic if they’re exclusively brilliant. Dr Nurse, Dr Calafiore and I looked at the distribution of neighbourhoods in Liverpool that are close to the 20-minute neighbourhood concept. 21% of the city is. But, many of these areas are in the higher housing price neighbourhoods. Its spatial inequality, again. But, whilst the current context in Liverpool leaves much to be desired, there is evidence that new low traffic neighbourhoods emerging in London are in low-income areas (3). This is great news and shows how a city can plan for low traffic neighbourhoods to support low-income neighbourhoods and rebut inequality.
The vision of Carlos Moreno, the Laurent Fignon of the 15-minute city, is not for active travel neighbourhoods to be created as isolated pockets within a city, but as part of a network across it. In Moreno’s view cities should be polycentric in form, with dense and diverse neighbourhoods distributed throughout. It’s not a new idea in urban planning, but it’s been given a 21st century twist as a low-carbon, active travel friendly concept for contemporary politicians. Anne Hidalgo took note and now lots of people are paying attention.
There is a movement in Liverpool now to create the 15-minute city which is picking up pace. Evidence, planning and community engagement are emerging and there is the real possibility of low traffic neighbourhoods being supported.
If Liverpool is to be a great city, it needs to promote vibrant local neighbourhoods throughout. It isn’t good enough to point to a central core that’s dripping with neoclassical architecture. Nor is it good enough to point to a few neighbourhoods with great active travel options. It needs a universal revolution. It needs an upgrade to both wheels.
1. The World Heritage designation is for the city centre and docklands, relating to its role in global maritime industries in the 18th and 19th centuries; https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1150/
2. See write up in the Guardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/03/outdoor-air-pollution-cuts-three-years-from-human-lifespan-study
3. Aldred, R., Verlinghieri, E., Sharkey, M., Itova, I. & Goodman, A. (2021) Equity in new active travel infrastructure: a spatial analysis of London’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/q87fu/
Dr Richard Dunning is a lecturer in planning at the Department of Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool.
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