Skies were blue in Marks Gate for the DIY Street Party on Friday 23rd September. It was fantastic to see the whole community come together to celebrate the achievements of the project, which the residents of Marks Gate can take credit for. Indeed, over the past two years, Sustrans has worked closely with residents to address a number of local challenges such as a car-dominated environment, low levels of cycling and a lack of public spaces to socialise in. This project would be nothing without the commitment, enthusiasm and imagination of local people and we thank you for being a wonderful community to work with.
The celebration was proudly opened by Councillor Sade Bright, who cut the ribbon with the Junior School Drumming Group. As soon as the school bells rang, the streets were filled with smiling faces as families explored the festivities on Rose Lane and Tantony Green. Alongside a banquet table full of donated cakes and snacks, children got stuck into hat making, jewellery making, tablecloth decorating and face painting, while others jumped on the Sustrans Smoothie Bike and pedaled their way to a healthy drink!
A hop, skip and jump along the new Yellow Brick Road took you to the ‘Emerald City Bike Zone’ on Tantony Green, where you could boogie away on the bike-powered disco, exchange your bike with Trailnet, join the Vandome Cycling Club and pet the cutest bunnies in the world with Wellgate Farm. All said and done though, one of the biggest hits of the day had to be the Zumba dance session run by Kaboom. We’ve never seen such dancing!
We are grateful to all the organisations and residents who supported the event and gave their time. The list is almost endless: LBBD, Southern Housing Group, North Meets South Big Local, Marks Gate Community Centre, Marks Gate Junior and Infant School, St Mark’s Church, Chadwell Heath Safer Neighbourhoods Team, Metropolitan Police Bike Marking, Creative Café, Tesco Healthy Eating, Coop, Avril’s Platter, Vandome, Trailnet, Wellgate Farm, Kaboom, Sophie Hardcastle, Valence House, Chadwell Heath History Society, Wynne-Williams Associates and of course the Eastbury Concert Band, who, following words from Reverend Tim Brampton, kindly paid tribute to Ricky Hayden with the piece ‘Abide with Me’.
Aims of the project
But we didn’t just come here to party! Over the past two years, Sustrans has been commissioned to work with the residents of Marks Gate to tackle issues in the local area. Through extensive surveying and workshops, the community identified a number of challenges to be addressed. This included dangerous driving, cluttered parking, a lack of public spaces to socialise in, a lack of artistic features, low levels of cycling, a fear of anti-social behaviour and a lack of opportunity for young people.
Whilst these challenges cannot be solved overnight, the project has worked hard to build a sense of community empowerment and ownership among residents, providing the resources to facilitate change, as well as delivering tangible improvements. Over 145 events have been organised since the project began, with a throughput of over 7500 attendances, the aim of which has been to build stronger relationships in the area, find solutions to local problems and test out ideas through temporary interventions such as the Rose Lane Seating Trial.
So far the project has addressed vehicle speeds by narrowing junctions and creating gateway features; created safer walking routes by improving parking, dropped kerbs and crossing points; co-designed a Yellow Brick Road walking route; and developed a stronger sense of place through public art, a way-finding boat, a community garden and public seating. What’s more, a variety of trees are going to be planted along Rose Lane this winter which will make the area feel greener, safer and more attractive to live in.
“Sustrans DIY Streets has visually enhanced the area and more importantly it has given the community a chance to come together in Marks Gate. The streets are safer and the community is stronger” Councillor Sam Tarry
Getting Marks Gate cycling
Complementing the community-street design work, the project has delivered over 85 walking & cycling events with the aim of creating a less car-dominated environment, promoting better health outcomes and helping people to better understand the changes this project has made.
Over the past six months the project taught over 70 children how to ride a bike; ran 6 bike clubs; trained over 40 women to cycle; ran 9 Dr Bike Sessions; 3 Bike Exchanges; a BMX Taster day at the Warren School; and has now installed a new bike pump track on Tantony Green to encourage positive social behaviour among young people.
“The project has been transformational for the people of Marks Gate, including myself… I’m now a cyclist and I feel much healthier!” Councillor Sade Bright
If you’ve read this far, thanks for joining! We (Louise and Simon) are incredibly grateful to the people of Marks Gate for being such great hosts and we are delighted with the support we have received for the project. And it’s not over yet! This Autumn we are organising even more events in Marks Gate.
- A weekly Walking Club – local and country walks to get your heart pumping! Free walk leadership training available! Every Tuesday 11am @ MG Community Centre. Starts 1st Nov.
- A Men’s Cycling Club – Join this free club, bikes included, and get pedaling! TBC
- Learn to Ride session at Marks Gate Infant School – Tuesday 8th November
If you would like to join any of the above sessions, please contact Simon on 07810 481 625.
Have a great week!
Louise and Simon