Verge Gardens and Active Transport
As part of the Banyo Verge Garden Pilot Project, we held a workshop on the connections between verge gardening, greening the streets, and active transport. It led to some lively discussions and clarifications.
We started by considering the many different people with an interest in whether we have more street trees, more shade, and more nature in our streetscapes. Some might call them stakeholders. I prefer to call them participants or "the people affected in some way or who have an opinion about this space."
Here is a rough diagram we used to show who is in this space.
Slide showing some of the people involved in this space
All of these people have opinions about what our streetscapes should look like and how the space should be used. Almost all would agree we need more street trees for shade and many are trying to make it happen.
Each will approach the issue from a different perspective depending on their professions, training, and background, and they have different priorities or reasons for greening the streets. Their goals might be complementary.
So who's here?
The professionals who work in urban planning, landscape architecture, transport, community development, urban forests and environment. They will want street trees for many reasons: to tackle urban heat, moderate rainwater runoff, encourage people to walk instead of drive, and so on.
The advocacy organisations who see shaded streets and walkability and active transport as an equity issue.
Health-related organisations who see shade and walkability as needed for individual health (active lifestyle, protection from sun and heat) and socio-economic reasons to reduce costs to the health care system by preventing diseases caused by the sedentary lifestyles in car-dependent cities and urban heat islands.
Education - from connection to nature to walking to school for the educational, social and health benefits as well as reducing traffic.
On the right, there are the urban food enthusiasts and guerrilla gardeners, many of whom are encouraging food growing on verges.
The advocates for pollinator and habitat corridors are a mixed bag between planting whatever you like and planting native plants and ecosystems.
Environmentalists are even more mixed and far more siloed than any organisation I have ever seen.
The middle circle is the residents. These are the people who walk, drive, mow or plant, and who may welcome or refuse a street tree in front of their home. Most importantly, these are the people who vote. While we all might fit into one or more of the other groups, we are all in this group, although perhaps in a minority.
So all of these people, with all their diverse worldviews, priorities, and emotions come crashing together in this space.
That means lots of potential for conflict, and conversely lots of opportunity for change-making.
The Banyo Collaboration
Out of these diverse groups, some participants have come together as a loose network to collaborate on this project.
We have Queensland Walks who advocate for walkability as an equity issue. And Nundah Community Enterprises Co-operative who are working with us to find a way to create employment opportunities for disadvantaged workers through this and future projects.
And most importantly, in that residents circle, we have found some local champions who provide frank and fearless feedback as well as local knowledge, practical help, and examples by planting their own verge gardens.
Between us we reach many of the other people, groups, and resources through our extended networks.
The two in red? The people who park on the verge and guerrilla gardeners are excluded from our project. For some of the organisations involved it is as simple as they cannot condone illegal behaviour.
For me and the Shady Lanes Project, it is something more - and I also exclude food growing on the verge for the same reason. Those activities are not conducive to collaboration with all the other players for our shared purpose and so would undermine the project.
To build the collaborations needed to tackle complex systemic problems, we need to build strong relationships and trust where diversity in worldviews, experiences, and priorities, is the vital ingredient that allows us to do things none of us could do on our own.
A collaborative project needs everyone working toward a shared purpose.The shared purpose for this project was set at our first meeting in December:
What would it be like if we transformed the streets of Banyo with council-planted street trees supported by resident-planted native verge gardens, making them cooler, walkable, biodiverse habitat corridors connecting larger green spaces and other local destinations?
What would it look like? What would it feel and smell like? What would it change? Whose lives would it change?
This Pilot Project aims to find out, and along the way test and refine a model for others to follow.
Be part of the change
Don't just talk, or click like, or say that's a good idea for other people to do.
Please go out and plant your verge in line within your council's policies. Request a street tree from your council if there's a gap.
If you don't have a verge available, help someone else do theirs or join a group project.
That experience of being a citizen gardener in a public space will help you build the relationships you need to get your message heard and influence the ways our cities evolve.
And it will help build the collaborative skills and muscle needed to be part of a project like this in your area.
Start with the free course, Verge Garden Basics - Understanding the Space
It's a short easy read and you'll see that verge that would incite me to vandalism.