"We are looking for solutions that make the environment more inclusive for people over 50 who live here and we do that by working with Tyburn people of all ages."
Ridhi Kalaria, Community Engagement Officer, Sustrans
Sustrans, a charity that helps create places that are walkable and cycle-friendly, leads a project called Age-Friendly Tyburn. This is in an area east of Birmingham's city centre and the project is part of the Ageing Better in Birmingham programme and aims to help make the local environment more accessible and inclusive.
We asked Ridhi Kalaria, Community Engagement Officer at Sustrans, to tell us more about the work that has taken place so far.
She said: "We are looking for solutions that make the environment more inclusive for people over 50 who live here and we do that by working with Tyburn people of all ages."
Locals identified Yatesbury Avenue as a barrier to getting out and about which had a negative effect on their life so Sustrans teamed up with the Community Environment Trust, Kier, Compass Support and The Active Wellbeing Society to organise clearance days and street closures.
During one of the clearance days, a team of ten tackled so much overgrown ivy and bushes that, when they were done, they had doubled the width of the footpath!
Ridhi said: "It's important to make it easier for people to use the path, including making it wheelchair friendly as well as making people with double buggies and mobility scooters to feel safe and comfortable using it."
Overgrown vegetation does not only limit accessibility, it also makes a place less inviting and can encourage further littering, fly tipping, dumping and even antisocial behaviour.
John, one of the residents who took part in the clearance said that having lived in the area for three years; he had noticed how pushchairs and mobility scooters struggled to get past some parts of the path. He took part in cutting down overgrown vegetation and enjoyed being able to connect with people in his neighbourhood on the day. He said: "I find it frustrating the lack of communication on Castle Vale now the local non-aligned newspaper has stopped."
Ken, 69, from Castle Vale enjoyed being able to chat to those around him. He said, "I really enjoyed the day and being able to work at my own pace. It was great exercise for me, and the best part was meeting like-minded people and making new friends. I was tired at the finish line, but felt a great sense of achievement and well-being at the end of it. We can all be proud of ourselves for doing a great job. I can't wait for the next one!"
Ridhi said: "We had a really great time! When we go out, we provide all the tools and people don't need any experience to get involved, just an ambition to help out."
Closing a section of Yatesbury Avenue helped highlight the problem of speeding cars on the straight roads that go across Castle Vale. The street closure was organised by Sustrans together with the Active Wellbeing Society and residents of all ages took the opportunity to get out and enjoy the new, albeit temporary, relaxing environment.
Children were cycling their bikes, residents stood on the road talking to each other and people were feeling happy in their neighbourhood. Staff and volunteers on the day noticed that cars would speed down towards them but were then forced to slow for the barrier. This confirmed residents' concerns and Sustrans' research about speeding problems in the area, and is something Ridhi and her team will further investigate. They will look at doing longer-term trials here to address the problem with a long-term solution.