Guest post – Little steps would make a big difference

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Guest post - Little steps would make a big difference

Posted 13 December 2010 12:31 by martin

Here's the second of our guest blog posts. Today's contributor is David Callam, a resident of Motown, South London. If you're interested in writing a guest blog post for us, please do get in touch.

MOTOWN, south London; you might call it a driver’s paradise, if it wasn’t for the weight of traffic clogging the six-lane highway that slices through the town centre.

The local authority says it wants to make Croydon more walker friendly. It has a grand plan to reduce the width of the urban freeway: but it lacks the money. In the meantime it could make changes that would improve matters considerably.

The town’s pedestrian underpasses are gloomy places, despite valiant attempts to replace graffiti with a series of murals, but it would cost relatively little to provide a low-tech alternative to these forbidding subterranean passages in the form of light-controlled surface crossings. And if the council really wants to be seen as walker-friendly, it could give pedestrians longer to cross the road and an equal number of turns with the traffic. I have a staggered crossing near my home that defies anyone to cross both sections in one change of lights unless they’re an Olympic athletics contender. I favour diagonal crossings at major junctions so pedestrians can cross the road in any direction rather than having to negotiate two separate changes of lights.

The council is reluctant to act. Even in these straitened times I suspect the relatively modest cost is not the inhibiting factor: more likely it’s the strength of the motoring lobby. Every driver has a vote and councillors fear that if they impede the speed of the car they will pay the ultimate price at the ballot box come the next election.

And yet, the town centre is better suited to walkers than cars. Most of it was last modernised by Victorian engineers who had horse-drawn carriages in mind. Croydon’s six lane inner-ring road was a 1960‘s aberration, built at a time when the car was king. Known locally as the 'magic roundabout' because it was never completed, it has long since reached capacity and is now seen as a curse. And yet the town enjoys a city-centre standard of public transport – trains, trams and buses. It needs to play to its strengths. And walkers are an important part of that.

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