1Thumbnail of Worthington Street2Thumbnail of picture of Worthington Street
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A Woonerf in Leicester

A woonerf (Dutch plural: woonerven) in the Netherlands and Flanders is a street where pedestrians and cyclists have legal priority over motorists. The techniques of shared spaces, traffic calming, and low speed limits are intended to improve pedestrian, bicycle, and automobile safety (quoted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woonerf)
In the Highfields area of Leicester Worthington Street is an example of a street based on woonerf principles. Although it was transformed in the 1980s I took most of these photographs in April 2011 as building work was being completed on a refurbishment of the street. While taking the photos I had a chat with a few residents who told me about the recent history of the street.
As can be seen in the photographs there are no kerbstones. The road has been raised to the level of the pavement (1&2). Coloured bricks denote parking bays and blue bollards create space in front of the houses (3) although the idea is that people can walk freely in the street. The chicane created by the parking spaces slows traffic down and, according to the residents, the recent removal of raised areas which sometimes hid small children from the view of drivers has made the street even safer. Children play in the street but the residents couldn't remember any accidents.
A small amount of street furniture adds character to the street. There are arches, lamps, and small railings by doors at intervals (4-7).
It was pointed out to me that Worthington Street appears to be slightly wider than neighbouring streets, which may have made it more attractive for conversion to a woonerf, although residents said that the traffic calming was originally needed as the street formed part of a fast rat run through the area. They remembered seeing the original plans, being involved in a consultation process, and were well aware of the concept of a woonerf and that their street was modelled on Dutch ideas.
Traffic calming measues in streets are common now, and the term 'Home Zone' has been used instead of Woonerf. Although this experiment proved to be costly and originally didn't meet favour with those in authority (listen to the audio clip below), Worthington Street is an early example of an attempt to address the ongoing conflict between car and pedestrian in the city.
In this audio clip Leicester's Chief Planning Officer at the time, John Dean, talks about what happened:

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More information:
This Leicester Mercury article from 2009 helps to explain why the 2011 refurbishment took place - http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/traffic-calming-design-makes-road-hazard/story-12093298-detail/story.html
Mike Biddulph has written extensively about Home Zones. For example - https://orca.cf.ac.uk/11287/1/Biddulph%20Home%20Zones%20Initiative.pdf
This website is part of the East Midlands Oral History Archive and has been compiled by Colin Hyde. Any comments can be sent to him via the 'Contact us' button at the bottom of the page. Last updated 23/03/2017.
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