Earlier in the week, we got wind of a community movement in the neighbourhood where we work. Our Streets are not Garages is a campaign led by a pair of passionate Melbournians, to raise awareness about the rise of motor vehicles in inner-city areas and how they are restricting our access to open spaces.
In 2006, City of Yarra Council^ had 34.2-square-metres of open space per person, and now we have access to 25.3-square-metres per person, due to the staggering rate of population growth.
‘When I sit in Peel Street, looking down Cambridge or Oxford Street on a Summer’s morning, drinking a coffee, it feels like a little piece of Europe. The plane trees provide dappled shade while locals walk their dogs, run a few laps around the block or entertain children in the pocket parks,’ muses campaign founder Tim Biles.
He’s deeply concerned that with every new apartment block, the open space per person shrinks, decreasing the quality of life for the growing number of people in the area. ‘If cars were placed under the street, or in underutilised spaces (of which there are many places) the streets could be turned to urban parks,’ he suggests, highlighting that with streets named after two of the most famous universities in the world – Oxford and Cambridge – ‘we could borrow some of that intellect and put our imagination to work here!’
Tim, campaign organiser Peta O’Brien and the team at Message Consultants gave input into the Council’s Open Space Strategy, championing public open spaces as ways to improve mental and physical health for adults and children alike, reduce crime, and increase community happiness and cohesion. ‘Key factors in implementing our ideas are sourcing funding as well as Council and State Government support. But it’s something we can manage – we just need your voices,’ explains Peta. ‘Funding will come from the Council with support from the State if we make this a big enough issue.’
Find out more by visiting Ourstreetsarenotgarages.com.au.
^City of Yarra comprises the Melbourne suburbs of Abbotsford, Burnley, Clifton Hill, Collingwood, Cremorne, Fitzroy, North Carlton, North Fitzroy, Princes Hill, Richmond, as well as parts of Alphington and Fairfield.