Anu James

Exploring the use and user perception of parklets in Redbridge, London

Streets are a city’s largest reservoir of public space. For more than a century, cities have been designed to accommodate private vehicles, making streets less safe for other modes and diminishing space for public life. Boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic, experiments aimed at achieving “streets for people” rather than “streets for traffic” have taken place across UK cities with rapid implementation approaches likened to so-called ‘tactical urbanism’(Lydon and Garcia, 2015).

For the purpose of this dissertation, ‘city street experiments’ are defined as ‘intentional, temporary changes in street use, regulation and/or form, aimed at exploring systemic change towards a ‘post-car’ city’ (Bertolini, 2020). Despite the growing implementation of such experiments in London, there has been little systematic documentation or examination.

The dissertation fills this gap in transition studies by examining the use and user perception of two parklets in the London Borough of Redbridge. This is to be achieved through analysis of demographic categories of user groups, variation of uses and how the street space changes impacted people’s perception towards mobility and psychosocial parameters associated with the parklet. This knowledge can be helpful to build and examine from past experiences and the specificity of parklets to create system change in London; urban mobility systems’ transition away from car dominance (Smeds, 2021) (Urry, 2004) (von Schönfeld and Bertolini, 2017). Microsoft Excel is used for the quantitative analysis of data and NVivo, a qualitative data analysis software is used for the qualitative research methods.

An ArcGIS online tool is also used by the researcher to create a story map of the community workshop conducted as part of the public engagement activity of (EX-TRA, 2022) at Redbridge.

Theoretically informed by transition studies and sustainable mobility, this study is part of the JPI-ERS funded EX-TRA project – ‘Experimenting with City Streets to Transform Urban Mobility’ research project, which studies the potential of street experiments for advancing transitions to a post-car city in Amsterdam, Milan, Ghent, Munich, Bologna and London. (EXTRA, 2022) has been conducting an independent study on the two parklets at South Woodford and Wanstead, Redbridge from January 2022. This analysis presents a first-step allowing further comparative analysis with other EX-TRA cities.

MORE is a part of Open Studio project run by the School of Architecture + Cities at the University of Westminster to make its design, research and practice-based work available online while it is happening.

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