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What we’re looking for

‘Innovating Streets’ is an umbrella term for any project that seeks to use quick, lower-cost and temporary techniques to deliver positive people-centred changes to streets.

This can include tactical urbanism, ‘trying through doing’ for consultation, fast changes to streets, and activations to help people think of their streets differently.

As such, Innovating Streets projects seek to deliver:

  • Temporary, or semi-permanent, physical changes to streets
  • Improvements that test a permanent fix and prototype a street design
  • Activations that help communities re-imagine their streets.

Innovating Streets projects are non-permanent, and might follow a phased testing approach such as:

  1. Pop-up: 1 day to 1 week
  2. Pilot: 1 week to 12 months
  3. Semi-permanent: A number of years.

While permanent solutions are vital to identify and aim for, their delivery and project steps are not part of Innovating Streets projects. Similarly, large-scale pilots and those in higher-risk road environments are excluded.

Why use an Innovating Streets approach?

People walking across a street with giant blue and yellow circles painted on the road.

Street layout ideas to provide a safer space for cyclists and pedestrians were tested by Auckland Transport on Federal Street. Valuable feedback was gathered during the trial and learnings informed permanent upgrades. Credit: Auckland Transport(external link)

Using a temporary or interim technique rather than a standard process allows project teams to:

  • Test different treatments in real life, and learn with data and evidence, which work best, for example:
    • Installing a variety of different design options for an overall treatment and seeing what works best for people, either simultaneously in different locations or sequentially over time
    • Having a discrete temporary installation in an area of a larger project, such as an intersection, driveway or village centre
    • Running an interim initiative (or several) in the lead-up to a major redevelopment of a space, which informs people’s decisions about what it should be like once the permanent change is made
  • Draw readily on locals’ experience of what will work
  • Centre the public debate on how to achieve the desired objective with the street, not whether it’s worth doing at all
  • Bring forward installation of treatments much sooner after the initial conception of the project
  • Gather data ‘live’ and highlight differences between people’s perception and reality
  • Have a conversation about important issues like what makes a street ‘work’, who are its ‘users’, what is ‘safe’, what ’improvement’ means.

Is an Innovating Streets approach suitable?

Before starting on your project, you need to be clear if a temporary approach is appropriate for your project given its environment. Many Innovating Streets projects are directly aimed at safety improvements, but no matter what the objective, safety needs to be front of mind at every stage of the project.

Waka Kotahi’s Innovating Streets programme is for lower risk streets, where there are already, or you are trying to achieve, slower traffic speeds and lower volumes of traffic.

Most suitable for Innovating Streets projects Less suitable for Innovating Streets projects
  • Streets with an operating speed of <30km/h or,
  • Streets where a design change aims to result in an operating speed of <30km/h.

For example:

  • Main shopping streets
  • Residential streets
  • Laneways
  • Shared space streets.
  • Streets with an operating speed of >50km/h, or
  • Streets with a posted speed above 60km/h.

For example:

  • Rural roads
  • Arterial roads
  • Rapid transit or busy public transport corridors.

A key component of planning your design should be influenced by where it is safest and easiest to make changes within the boundaries of the Traffic Control Devices Rule.

Delineators, and restricting general traffic movements, is the key to unlocking the use of colour and creative designs in your Innovating Streets project. In areas of the roads protected by significant delineation devices, risk is being managed and traffic access limited (if not prevented), and there is greater scope for innovation using things like coloured and textured surfacing types. Similarly, the footpath or shared path environment is subject to lower operating speeds and reduced level of traffic, and therefore has greater potential for innovation under the Rule.

Colours or markings that do not conform to the Rule are not advisable in traffic lanes, or in streets with higher-risk or speed environments.

What do Innovating Streets projects look like?

Portable Swan Garden on Durham Street

Swan garden parklet installed by Gap Filler for PARK(ing) Day 2015 in Christchurch reclaimed a space, normally occupied by vehicles, for pedestrians. Credit: Gap Filler.

Some of the most common Innovating Streets projects include:

  • Parklets. Low-risk, low-cost ways to create space for people.
  • Events for re-imagining streets as public space. Pop-up events can be an effective way to try out a new street change.
  • Paint-outs, channelising. Using a mix of cheap tools such as paint or planters to improve safety.
  • Traffic restriction. Controlling vehicle speed and priority, or removing traffic, to improve walking and cycling safety.
  • Reallocation of traffic lanes from vehicles to other uses. Reallocating street space to create social, economic and environmental benefits.

View a range of case studies containing examples of the methods above.

The Seven Factors for Success

Regardless of its size or duration, experience from recent projects delivered across the country shows that a successful Innovating Streets project needs seven key areas covered. The following sub-sections individually address these ingredients for success: