Hopes more streets outside Norwich will join car free push

Alexandra Road was closed for a street party to celebrate Norfolk's Car Free Day.

Alexandra Road was closed for a street party to celebrate Norfolk's Car Free Day. - Credit: Ben Price

Norfolk enjoyed its most successful Car Free Day last weekend - but its founder wants to see even more communities participate next year. 

Matt White, who founded Car Free Norwich in 2018, said the atmosphere was “lovely” on the streets he visited which had closed themselves off from traffic.

The annual event went countywide last year, and this year saw a record number of streets participating.

According to Norfolk County Council, 10 streets applied and received permission to put up roadblocks, but Mr White thinks there were as many as 12.

He added however that it was “annoying” the streets were all in Norwich, when he had hoped to see more participating across the county. 


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Despite receiving support from the county council in publicising the day, Mr White said he had hoped for more help from other groups and authorities across Norfolk - though he praised Konectbus for offering discounted family tickets on the day.

Matt White, an activator of community interest company Playing Out Norfolk.

Matt White, an activator of community interest company Playing Out Norfolk. - Credit: Matt White

He also said there was a general lack of awareness about the ability of residential streets to go car-free. 

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“A lot of people don’t even know that play streets are a thing,” said Mr White.

“They don’t know that they can close their road to traffic, as long as they don’t live on a bus route, so they wouldn’t even consider it.”

He added: “It’s one day a year, but one of the great things about play streets is that it can be any day. 

“The [annual] Car Free Day is a focus, to try and get more people to do it, and I don’t think a lot of people realise this either, but they can have a play street whenever they want - they just need to give six weeks’ notice. 

“For example in Bristol, where the play street movement really started, some of them do it once a month, or even once every two weeks in the warmer months. 

“It builds a real sense of community over time, but it also changes the psychology of a street, because cars have so gradually taken over our public space that we don’t really think about it.

"A lot of people just think of streets as somewhere to store cars, and that’s it - but it used to be a social space, and somewhere to amble, and chat to your neighbours, so it’s reclaiming that.”

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