Te Rā Road in Auckland is home to Point Chevalier School and is characterised by unsafe and congested traffic, particularly during school drop-off and pick-up times. To explore how this situation could be improved, a community Play Street event called ‘Here Comes the Sun’ was held on 1 November 2019. The event was named after the road itself, with ‘rā’ meaning ‘sun’ in te reo Māori.
The event involved closing Te Rā Road to traffic for 12 hours, enabling play and other activities on the road. As well as delivering a community event, organisers used the closure to highlight problematic traffic behaviour on the road, reinforce active travel and encourage the community to envision – and use – the road in new ways.
Closing Te Rā Road to traffic for 12 hours from 8am to 8pm provided the community with the opportunity to experience the road free of traffic and as a lively shared space for playing, learning, conversing and connecting. Here Comes the Sun sought to encourage the community to reflect on current travel behaviours and to reinforce active school travel choices. The event also trialled a streamlined approach to traffic management procedures to improve traffic management in low risk environments.
Key success factors identified by organisers in the delivery of Here Comes the Sun included strategic marketing and promotion, effective communications, local community engagement, and the ability to leverage transport agency support. Social capital – the community’s capacity and capability to help turn an idea into reality through planning, development and delivery – was also critical.
The event was rated highly in key areas including event planning, management, communications, stakeholder consultation and volunteer assistance. Stand-out highlights for event organisers were the opportunities, experiences, energy and freedoms created through opening Te Rā Road up for human centred activities.
Feedback from event attendees showed that many felt they had experienced a highly significant and remarkable event. Not surprisingly, given the success of the event, Here Comes the Sun generated strong community demand for similar future events.
Building on previous active travel initiatives and significant achievements in Point Chevalier, this research shows that Here Comes the Sun:
The evaluation of the event is being fed into a review of the Code of Practice for Temporary Traffic Management, with the aim of establishing new guidance for community events in low risk streets.