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DIY plan to stop drivers speeding in Norwich

Oxford residents make life sweet on their new re-designed street. Beech Croft Road, Oxford, OX2 final touches to their re-designed street. Sat 30th Oct 2010

Oxford residents make life sweet on their new re-designed street. Beech Croft Road, Oxford, OX2 final touches to their re-designed street. Sat 30th Oct 2010

©2010 Sustrans, all rights reserved

Giant plant pots and drawings on roads could be the solution to tackle rat-runners in Norwich streets, according to councillors who believe a DIY approach by families could compensate for a lack of council cash.

"One of the things Sustrans found was that doing this work meant people became much more sociable."

Green city councillor Samir Jeraj

Norwich City Council has been given just £200,000 by the county council to spend on road safety improvements, which means families pushing for speed bumps and other traffic calming are being told there is no money available.

To get around the lack of cash, councillors have suggested Norwich could learn from the pioneering DIY Street scheme, run by charity Sustrans, which has seen communities take matters into their own hands.

The scheme has seen families join forces to apply for grants or to get donations from local businesses

to make their own improvements so drivers ‘respect’ their streets.

And, if the ideas used in those projects are introduced in Norwich it could see families painting different colours and putting in plant boxes and art installations at the start of residential streets to encourage drivers to slow down.

One place where the scheme worked particularly well was at Beech Croft in Oxford, a street on which more than 60 children lived, but where drivers sped because the street was so straight and narrow and motorists regularly parked on the pavement.

The households began fundraising and got donations from local businesses and teamed up with the charity Sustrans to get money from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

The community joined forces to put in a string of unusual measures, which have successfully reduced the average speed to 16mph.

It included painting diamonds in the road to stress to drivers that the street was a community space and installing massive plant pots along the road to add colour and shade to the street.

That, along with Victorian-style cycle racks, also helped get across the psychological message to drivers that this was a place where people lived so they should watch their speed.

One of the plant pots even features the grinning face of the Cheshire Cat from Alice In Wonderland – which light up in headlights and helps change the behaviour of drivers.

And with all achieved for less than £10,000, councillors believe that, with money so tight in Norwich, there are ways to make a little go a long way.

Samir Jeraj, Green city councillor for Town Close ward, put forward the suggestion that Norwich should explore such ideas at a meeting of the Norwich Highways Agency Committee.

He said: “It’s about looking at the streets and seeing what improvements could be made to make them more pleasant environments.

“In a lot of streets people have retreated into their homes and do not have much interaction with their neighbours and one of the things Sustrans found was that doing this work meant people became much more sociable.

“At council meetings we are often having to tell people there is no money available, but there are plenty of people who are engaged with the process and want to see something done, so I think we should be looking to see if this Sustrans scheme could support them.

“From my understanding Sustrans and the local councils have worked together and I think some residents have done some fundraising.

“Even if it’s a matter of coming up with ways of doing things differently with the money the council does has then I think it is worth it as it could help that money go further.”

A spokesman for Sustrans said the charity would be happy to speak to the council about how the 11 pilot projects, including the one in Oxford and places such as London, Torquay, Sheffield and Manchester.

Andy Watt, head of transportation at Norwich City Council, sounded a note of caution.

He said: “For the committee to take a view it does have implications for what happens elsewhere in the city, so we would want discussions with our county colleagues on how the concept works and how it has fared to date.”

It was agreed that officers would draw up a report which would be brought to a future meeting of the highways committee, which is made up of city and county councillors.

Are you trying to tackle rat-runners where you live? Tell us your story by calling Evening News reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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