CAMWEST: Cyclists’ Action Movement West

Feature — Street Reclaiming

What would it take for our suburban streets to be friendly environments, where children can play and people can walk and cycle safely, and talk without having to shout? How could we get to this picture? Is this even possible? We tackle these questions on this issue.

On any given school day, you will see thousands of angry, frustrated parents driving their children to school. They don't like it, but they feel forced to drive because the streets are not safe, because it's full of other angry, frustrated parents driving their children to school. Catch the irony?

The problem feeds on itself, as an article called Pedestrian Power puts it:

"A vicious cycle has formed in that the street is considered to be a dirty, noisy, dangerous place; this has meant the reduction of pedestrians which has created further alienation on the street; in turn, more people use their car instead of walking which has lead to increased traffic; yet it is traffic that has caused the street to be dirty, noisy, and dangerous in the first place."

"Street reclaiming should not be seen as a subversive activity; you donþt have to go out and lie in front of traffic. Practical street reclaiming is something that anyone can do; it is not about being anti-car it is about being pro-community. Street reclaiming means reclaiming the street for itþs original purpose, as a safe place for social interaction and not merely as a corridor for cars to get from A to B."

These thoughts are often dismissed as 'anti-car'. CAMWEST doesn't see itself as anti-car, but pro-people. Most CAMWEST members have a car and find them convenient, although we often wish we could ride safely instead. We need to to put the car in its place — second to humans.

Speed Kills

How many times have you heard someone whinge about speed limits and brag about how they take a liberal approach to them, and yet when cycling is mentioned the response is “I would never do that — it's just not safe in the street!”?

Here are some statistics from the RTA:

Small increases in speed have big increases in the risk of killing someone, it's that simple: “In a 60 km/h speed limit area, the risk of involvement in a casualty crash doubles with each 5 km/h increase in travelling speed above 60 km/h.” (RTA Speeding Research).

Apart from the hard nosed statistics, speeding can also destroy the environment of the street. As people are too scared to hang around, they retreat. This destroys the social fabric of the area. Ironically, the 'deadness' of an area is often used as an argument for increasing speed limits!


Noise is the often neglected problem in our neighbourhoods. One of the bicycle's advantages is its quietness, something we may forget as we start assuming that progress equals noise. Anyone who works in the Sydney CBD knows how anti-social its streets are. You cannot hold a conversation because of all the cars, trucks and buses.

Olympic city's decibel-shocked residents have nowhere to hide (SMH, 21.7.00)

Environmental Criteria for Road Noise — EPA

Solutions — Reclaiming Our Streets

The solution is simple: people deciding that their street is part of their home environment, and taking ownership of what happens there.

The best thing we can recommend is to read Street Reclaiming, by David Engwicht. A lot of the ideas in this article came from this book. You can also read a summary of Street Reclaiming.

The Parramatta Church St area is a great example of putting people first. Car parking space was returned for use by people: wider footpaths and al fresco dining. The result: a tremendous revival to the area, great for business and the area in general.

Keep an eye out for a Street Reclaiming page on our site, as we update it with more specific actions in the Western Sydney area.

What Councils Can Do

What State Government Can Do

What You Can Do


Street Reclaiming — Summary: A great overview of David Engwicht's philosophy on making our streets people-friendly. His books have revolutionised the way many think about our streets. This summary comes from his popular book, 'Street Reclaiming', which will change the way you think about your neighbourhood.

2nd Generation Traffic Calming Project — Engtwich (Word, 193K)

Car Chaos — New Internationalist

Green Cities — survival guide for an urban future, New Internationalist, June 99

Livable Cities — Sustainable Urban and Transport Planning - Australian Conservation Foundation

Radical Torque — ABC Lateline, 8/04/1999
It's a symbol of independence and prosperity É the wind in your hair and the open road. But in reality is the traffic is getting slower, the air is getting dirtier and the cities noisier all thanks to the automobile. So why are we still wedded to the wheel?

Reclaiming the Residential Street as Play Space
A paper that explains how the residential street has progressively lost its function as a play space for children.

Pedestrian Power —

RTA Cycling Page

RTA Speeding Page

50 Km/h Urban Speed Limit Page — RTA

RTA 50 Km/h Urban Speed Limit Evaluation (PDF, 416k)

Pedestrian Council of Australia

Australian Institute of Urban Studies

Road Safety 2010 Plan

Street Reclaiming Project — BEST (Better Environmentally Sound Transportation)

Good Reading

Street Reclaiming, by David Engwicht. Press blurb: "Local communities across Australia are taking steps to make neighbourhoods more livable. This book shows ordinary residents how to reclaim their streets from traffic without waiting for councils. This is a practical and down-to-earth manual with over 200 illustrations which will change the way you look at streets." Many of the thoughts from this article come from this book.

Sustainability and Cities: Overcoming Automobile Dependence, by Newman and Kenworthy (1999). A good book re transport. Add a 'resources' or 'good books' page/section.


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