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The street as a meeting place instead of a parking lot

Published: 24 March 2021

I Göteborg, Helsingborg and Stockholm, streets have been turned into areas for activities, meetings and movement for people in the immediate area. The results and the attention exceed all expectations. Now Vinnova is taking the next step to make Sweden's streets sustainable, healthy and vibrant.

This web page has been machine translated. If there are any uncertainties, please refer to the Swedish text.

Photo: Elsa Soläng/ArkDes/LundbergDesign

It was in the autumn of 2020 that the Vinnova-funded projects Framtidsgator / Smarta gator and Street Moves took concrete expression under the leadership of Spacescape and ArkDes on some streets in three large cities. The initiatives involve housing and businesses such as shops and schools in the design by testing solutions for new urban environments under real conditions.

With the help of wooden kits, which can be changed based on needs, multifunctional and living environments are created where people have more space. It is about seating furniture, playgrounds, plantations and outdoor gym but also of charging stations for shared car and parking spaces for electric scooters.

The evaluation of the full-scale tests shows interesting results. In a Novus survey, more than 70 percent of respondents who live by or use the street state that they are positive about these so-called mobility hubs. Only 10 percent are negative.

- It is an extremely gratifying response. I do not know of any other test where parking spaces with similar resultshave been removed. So fun and it shows the importance of involving those who will use the street in the development and design of the surface, says Filip Kjellgren, who works with mobility at Vinnova.

- A key to the success of the projects is that the right actors got involved from the beginning. We have had the citizens, the City of Stockholm, the Swedish Transport Agency, ArkDes, Lundberg Design, VOI, M - Volvo Car Mobility, White, Spacescape, KTH, Chalmers and Sweco. Together, they cover the entire chain of innovation. From needs, data, design, culture, technology and values to policy and legislation, Filip Kjellgren emphasizes.

The street as part of national mission

The projects are building blocks in a larger national experiment that is about focusing on the area between the houses, the street, to see how it can contribute to both sustainable and healthy mobility and to making more space in the city available for people and greenery. The street is a central environment for innovation where many functions and perspectives meet daily. Focus on the place "street" makes it easier to gather a lot of stakeholders to discuss a desired future.

Vinnova has together with other actors for two years tested a new way to make innovation happen, so-called mission-oriented innovation, with the goal that all streets in Sweden will be sustainable, healthy and full of life.

A mission-oriented approach is about changing entire systems. This requires an individual-centered and interdisciplinary perspective as well as commitment from actors at all levels. It is about breaking silos and letting actors who otherwise do not meet discuss problems and solutions. The purpose is for everyone to start working in the same direction with a common objective in focus.

Hälsingegatan seen obliquely from above with exhibited modules for living street environment Photo: Trafikkontoret, Stockholm City

Great interest in the investment

It is clear that the investment is at the forefront and engages many. Elements in the national media and discussions in social media have been followed by reports in international media such as Bloomberg, Fast Company and The Guardian.

Abbot Liljero's article states, among other things, that the design process and the dialogue with the local community are at least as important as the construction kits on the street. And that scaling up local initiatives where people feel that they can influence concrete results, enables Sweden's streets to be a fast and powerful innovation platform for both sustainable change and public health and equality.

- I think one reason for the attention is that the area between the houses is so obvious to everyone in our society. In addition, the pandemic has highlighted the need to change the car-centric use of the street, with such things as more pedestrian and bicycle lanes and more space to stay with family and friends outdoors, says Filip Kjellgren.

Anchoring and collaboration determine the future of the street

In 2021, Vinnova, together with many other companies and organizations, will continue to invest in testing and developing new solutions for the street. It is about everything from getting more green on the street to how sustainable e-commerce and self-driving vehicles create more value for the street's various functions. With the increasing number of ongoing initiatives on the street puts Vinnova also greater focus on linking these, the aim of creating more of what is already being done. In addition, Vinnova will place more emphasis on how behavioral changes can contribute to achieving the goals.

- The single most important thing for us as a nation and society to achieve the goals around the street, is that we succeed in anchoring this all the way from the citizen up to the Riksdag. In the same way that Sweden's successful work with the zero vision around traffic accidents is anchored, Filip Kjellgren emphasizes.


Filip Kjellgren

Programme Manager

Last updated 24 March 2021

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