In Uplands last week I met three people I hadn’t seen in ages. It was great to chat (albeit at a distance), and afterwards I got that warm feeling of being anchored in my community.
It reminded me of a well-known research study, undertaken in the U.S. some years ago where academics were trying to find out why residents of a small town in America were unusually long-lived.
The people were largely of Italian heritage, and so early studies theorised that it might be the Mediterranean diet that was beneficial.
Other studies thought that it might be the influence of high levels of attendance at Church that was having a protective effect, whilst later researchers looked at the consumption of red wine, and others measured smoking rates.
But when all these factors were taken into account, none of them appeared to be especially important. The only thing that was strikingly different about the population, and which appeared to be enabling people to live longer than the average American citizen, was the fact that people in the town took time to talk to each other, on the street, on a regular basis. It was a big part of peoples’ everyday routine to stop and chat to neighbours, to sit on public benches and discuss the issues of the day, and spend time catching up with people whilst out shopping.
And I think that’s one of the great things about Uplands—people do stop and chat. But it got me thinking about how much better it could be if we had a couple of benches to sit on—so we could rest our legs and just have those little conversations with strangers that can be so important.
And just imagine if we could slow the traffic down a bit so that we could hear the birds in the trees, and we could take our time crossing the roads!
At one of our Living Streets meetings recently an officer from the Highways Department described Uplands as having an enormous catchment for traffic, which doesn’t make it a nice place to be if you are a pedestrian. With what we know from research about pedestrian-friendly spaces encouraging more footfall to shops, and that having pleasant space to stop and chat can actually lead to longer life, now feels like a good time to get together and come up with some ideas for greening our mainstreet. We need to chat more – it’s good for us! – and to do that we need safer, quieter streets where pedestrians take priority!
If you’d like to get together with John and Jane to look at options for traffic calming in Uplands, contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org