Creating Places, Enabling Active Travel: TRANSPORT Smart Class, Midlands 2023 Retrospective


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Martin Philpott is Sustrans’ Regional Head of Design and Engineering for the Midlands region, working with Local Authorities to deliver high quality LTN1/20 compliant designs for urban corridors and multi user greenways. He also sits on the UK Roads Board ‘Footway Cycleway Management Group’ and has co-authored several design guides on cycle infrastructure design. Laura Smith is a Senior Project Manager in the Behaviour Change and Engagement Team. With a particular emphasis on the West Midlands, she manages and supports schools, workplaces, jobseekers and communities to walk, wheel and cycle. A key focus has been activating the National Cycle Network where infrastructure improvements have taken place.

At TRANSPORT Smart Class, Midlands 2023, Martin and Laura teamed up to outline Sustrans’ innovative approach to developing and activating greenways:

Access to green space is now acknowledged to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression and gives us a different perspective of the world around us. The greenways that we deliver, and our approach to bringing communities with us, allows us to link aspects of our lives together. Our greenways have won awards, the contractors who we work with on them have won awards. Engineers understand highways, vehicles and all the equipment that goes with our urban living. Our approach isn’t complicated, our Engineers understand highways – but they also understand that creating greenways and green spaces requires a different approach, where we can bring the natural world back into our lives.

We also know that community activation of new/improved infrastructure in essential. The journeys users make need to start and stop somewhere, and how we develop and implement those connections are equally as important. People need to feel safe for all aspects of their journey and ensuring that we don’t just finish at the roadside is as essential as the quality of the greenways themselves”.

Following their initial presentation, Martin and Laura went on to co-host deep dive roundtable sessions with all delegates in attendance.

Presentation highlights:

  • Sustrans’ Vision and Mission – “A society where the way we travel creates healthier places and happier lives for everyone”/”We make it easier for everyone to walk, wheel and cycle”;
  • Desired Changes – Sustrans want to see: Radically reduced traffic speed and volume; Creation of sociable spaces where people can easily interact; Better connection of people to green and public space; Transport and planning policy that puts people first; Heritage of the places we work in to be valued and enhanced; Cities and towns that are inclusive and safe for all;
  • Paths for Everyone:
  • What Creates a Good Greenway? Understand the aims and priorities of the greenway; Where you can balance people, wildlife and the environment; Somewhere that you can explore or use as an asset, no matter age of ability;
  • Understanding the Challenge – What do you need overcome and what do you need to work with? Water; Structures; Ecology and Biodiversity; Public Access and Experience; Maintenance;
  • Water – Water damages greenways when it is allowed to run freely along or across paths; Unsealed surfaces are more susceptible to damage and continual repair; Thin big, use SuDS, work with the environment, the LLFA and the LPA; Scrapes and hollows are more informal;
  • Structures – Understand the types of structures on a route – plate steel bridges need different solutions to brick railway arches; Don’t be put off building new ones – just understand the space needed to allow for resting and watching;
  • Ecology and Biodiversity – Ecology and biodiversity can shape the success or failure of a greenway; Don’t throw anything away – it can be re-used as a home for others; Ecology and Engineering can work in harmony if you set off on the same path together;
  • Public Access and Experience – Understand shade and shelter. People may want both; Understand how far people can, or want, to travel – put benches 500m from access points; Remove barriers – make the greenway welcoming; Connect Public Rights of Way, link to nature sites; Signing, information panels;
  • Maintenance – Sealed surfaces give longevity; Understand new materials, new techniques, or what products could do; Don’t take anything off site, grass cuttings contain wildflower seeds; Think about where and how paths interact with trees; Have a management plan and talk to each other;

  • Liveable Towns and Cities for Everyone:
  • A liveable city or town for everyone 1) Has social connection at its heart 2) Has most of what you need just a short walk away 3) Has roots and celebrates its unique character 4) Is easy for everyone to move around healthily 5) Has clean air and green space for all to live and play in;
  • Activation of Infrastructure – Engaging the local community to use their active travel network: Community Engagement – People Informed, Conversations, Events; For Everyone – More diverse people and groups; Volunteering – Increased Volunteer activity on the NCN;
  • The Cloud Trail – School Art Project; Habitat Management Plan Volunteering; Canal and River Trust Volunteer Days; Bat Walks; Dr Bike events; Willow weaving;
  • The Cloud Trail Mural;
  • Wolverhampton – Sustrans’ Wolverhampton project had 3 main areas of work: The Bike Giveaway, Pop-up Events and School Engagement; Project Officers set up referral pathways through community organisation supporting local people from under-represented groups. The package of support included: A free reconditioned bike, Cycle maintenance training and Cycle confidence training

If you satisfy our regular delegate qualification criteria but were unable to join us in Coventry on November 22nd for the live in-person event at Drapers’ Hall, CLICK HERE and complete the short “Download form” (located at the bottom of the post) to receive a unique link enabling free access to the presentation video recordings and slides (including the film footage and slides from Martin and Laura’s presentation).

Those qualifying to receive the rich presentation content from this event include commissioning, procurement, trialling, partnering and policy leads, senior influencers, strategic decision makers and planners from local authorities (e.g. city, borough, metropolitan, district and county councils); public transport operators; regional transport partnerships, sub-regional transport bodies, combined authorities, integrated transport authorities and passenger transport executives; highways authorities and road operators; government and supporting national transport agencies; fleet operators, parking operators, prime contractors etc.

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TRANSPORT Smart Class, Midlands 2023

On November 22nd we will be casting a spotlight over Central England, hosting our speakers discussions on how the latest digital innovations can help overcome the transport and mobility challenges faced by the burgeoning city-regions of the West and East Midlands, and beyond.


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