Living Streets, launched by the Pedestrians Association, aims to create streets where people can meet and walk in comfort and ease. It is about reducing the supremacy of motor traffic, not banishing it. For years, campaigners claim, streets have been adapted more and more to handle motor traffic. They have meanwhile become dirty and unloved, scarred by litter, graffiti and vandalism. This has led to social alienation and community breakdown.
'The Belisha beacon is a great symbol for Living Street's aims', said Ben Plowden, co-ordinator of the campaign. 'It is familiar, it's meaningful and it's about civilized streets.
'There is a big move to return streets to their local communities. Streets should be an integral part of local life. We need to reduce traffic danger and create safe, well-kept public spaces.
'All communities are affected. Villages are cut in half by traffic. Town centres are all too often empty and threatening after dark. City streets are full of rubbish and overshadowed by the fear of crime. Our manifesto shows how to plan and manage streets to give correct priority to the interests of residents, walkers and shoppers.'
The manifesto will call for a radical reclassification of Britain's roads to take account of all community demands - walking, shopping, playing and socialising - as well as driving. With this new classification, the Highways Agency and local planners would audit and re-design streets to reflect many different social functions and needs. This would lead to better traffic calming measures and improved street lighting, repairs and cleaning. More beat bobbies and street wardens would give people a sense of safety and security. The manifesto also calls for good community facilities, from accessible council services to benches and public toilets.
'People will want to mingle, spend time in living streets, not just hurry past,' said Plowden. 'None of this runs counter to current thinking in government and local authorities. It just needs to happen faster and in a 'joined-up' way.'
The manifesto will be backed by new research showing the importance of streets and public spaces to local quality of life. It shows that the quality and safety of many streets is steadily decliningand that improving them is one of the public's highest priorities. The research concludes that a failure to create safe, attractive streets and public spaces will undermine government efforts to renew urban areas and reduce poverty.
Living Streets believes that examples of good practice already exist in the UK. These include developments as diverse as the revitalisation of Birmingham City Centre; Hull's extensive use of 20 mph to cut traffic casualties; and the Boulevard Project in Camden, North London, aimed at improving the local environment.
'Hackney, in hosting our launch, has shown an enlightened approach to improving our streets,' added Mr Plowden. 'What's really needed is an attitude change from politicians and planners throughout the country. All the components for revitalising our streets are there'.
The immediate aim of the Living Streets campaign is to generate mass support for the manifesto. Copies are available at the Living Streets websiteor by calling the campaign on 020 7820 1010.
Living Streets is a new campaign by the Pedestrians Association. The Pedestrians Association is a national charity working to create streets and public spaces that people on foot can use and enjoy.
Key findings from Streets are for Living, the research report accompanying the launch of the campaign, are also available on the campaign website.