How did I give up using my car? By turning it into a protest art roadblock!

It can be hard to give up things. 

One way is to just remove temptation. 

I’d vowed last winter, after waking up to the extent of  our climate crisis, only to use my car for unavoidable journeys.

But I’d found – despite then becoming a climate activist and active travel campaigner, and someone who’d always loved walking and cycling, and a big fan of trams and trains – that I still had trouble avoiding the tendency to jump in the car when it was raining, I was feeling lazy or running late.*

I decided that the easiest way to give up using my private car – was to remove it and go cold turkey.

Deciding to do something, and doing it, are also two different things (as the broken lightbulb in my hallway can testify today, a good month after it blew it).

So, when Extinction Rebellion’s Deansgate direct action rolled around this August, and fellow protestors were looking for an eye-catching protest artwork in the middle of the street… I had just the job…

Continue reading “How did I give up using my car? By turning it into a protest art roadblock!”

What happened when we tried to pedestrianise Manchester’s showpiece street for one day via official channels?

I wrote this piece at the request of the Manchester Meteor as part of a series they’re curating from community groups on the realities of trying to engage with Manchester City Council.
The Meteor series was triggered by blog post from Council leader Sir Richard  Leese urging people to work with the council on solutions to the climate crisis.

 

I’m one of a group of people who last year set up WalkRide Greater Manchester to campaign for better walking, cycling and public transport in the city region.

One of our goals is for our urban centres to be designed and built around people not cars – and specifically we are campaigning for Manchester’s showpiece shopping street, Deansgate, to become traffic free*.

Earlier this year, one of our group came up with a proposal to turn part of Deansgate over to a large ‘open streets’ event on the longest day of the year, for people to be able to try it out as a traffic-free zone, with fun activities such as yoga, picnics and five a side – as well as to learn more about ‘active travel’.

Deansgate is closed to through-traffic about 10-12 times a year – but that’s in order to use the space for events like parades or races – so people don’t really get to experience it as their own, pedestrian place.

We called our idea, the People’s Takeover and asked for meetings with the council, TfGM and the Walking and Cycling Beelines team to progress it.

This coalition of groups were ostensibly enthusiastic, so we adapted the proposal to meet everyone’s requirements – and then asked what we’d need to do to make it happen. We even found an agreed source of funding.

We thought we had done the easy bit.  Continue reading “What happened when we tried to pedestrianise Manchester’s showpiece street for one day via official channels?”