When sustainability is placed at the heart of community design it vastly improves the quality of life for all, but especially the lives of older people and children who are often isolated by roads they cannot cross safely. It improves the quality of the air we breathe, enables us to enjoy walks in cleaner air and take part in conversations which are not drowned out by the noise of traffic.
I feel this is particularly important when it comes to our children’s ability to be independently mobile. Over the last few decades our children have become increasingly restricted in their ability to roam independently and play outside near to where they live. Many grandparents and those parents, such as myself, who grew up in the 1970’s remember a time when we could play in the back alley, walk ourselves to the park and play in our street. By allowing the car to dominate, we have robbed our children of this independence which is so important to their development.
This week we were in Lancaster, enjoying the delightful Fairfield area, a part of Lancaster which showcases how urban areas can be sustainable and beautiful places to live. The Fairfield was rescued by the residents of the city and a few environmentally-minded city councilors in 1998 when the then city council earmarked the area for a housing development. The area combines housing alongside a lovely playpark, allotments and a large area of nature reserve boasting a community orchard, meadows, woodland and grassland. The Fairfield area is located only a few hundred metres from the city centre but it is immediately noticeable that it is relatively traffic free. After a delicious lunch at The Whale Tail in the city, a quick stop at Single Step to buy our waste free dry goods we went on to enjoy a lovely afternoon here.
Speaking of sustainable design…after hearing John Whitelegg’s lecture on mobility, one of the places on my ‘bucket’ list to visit is Freiburg in Germany. For the last thirty years it has been the destination of city planners who are hoping to be inspired by its success at improving it’s sustainability and the lives of it’s citizens. It has built a city centre based on low-emissions by constructing bicycle lanes, tram ways and preventing cars from entering the city centre.
Let’s hope that the day dawns, soon, when we begin to see these principles applied to everywhere that people live and work, and that the future provides each and every one of us with a better standard of living – by design.