People Friendly Streets are indeed very friendly places

Katy of 'On Friendship and Chairs' in King Henry's Walk

Katy of 'On Friendship and Chairs' in King Henry's Walk is keen to use empty parking spaces for outdoor seating - Credit: David Harrison

Is London friendly?

It’s proverbial that nowhere is lonelier than a city, but Londoners are certainly friendly when there’s a problem. An old lady falls over, and people rush to help. But friendly neighbourhoods need daily meeting and greeting. That is why the People Friendly Streets are making a positive impact.

The six month evaluation of the St Peter's scheme has measured the huge advantage of reduced traffic with less air pollution and more active travel, but there are also great social benefits. If you travel by bus or car, you may spot someone you know but can’t stop for a chat.

David Harrison says shops will benefit from People Friendly Streets.

David Harrison wants more 'parklets' created - Credit: David Harrison

With roads closed to through traffic, cyclists and walkers can enjoy those chance encounters.

Many assume that open air mixing is limited to hotter countries and think of Italian piazzas or Parisian café society. In fact Paris gets more rain than London and we too have lovely open spaces.

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Pre-lockdown Londoners enjoyed sitting outside pubs, cafes and restaurants. Exmouth Market was particularly popular.

This year Covid means we will be even keener to eat and drink outside. But we need more places where we can.

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A recent development has been the "parklet" (Hackney has led the way), where a parking space (not the pavement) has been turned into a mini patio with plants and benches. You can just stop for a rest and get to know your neighbours. Parklets can be in residential streets or outside shops, and the pavement licensing scheme should make it easy for cafes to put out tables and chairs. Owners like Katy of On Friendship and Chairs in King Henry's Walk are keen to use the opportunity that empty parking spaces present.

So People Friendly Streets are indeed friendly places. Now let’s have more parklets. Something good to smile about.

  • David Harrison is vice-chair of London Living Streets.

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