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Saturday, 25 July 2020

Pedestrian spaces

Amid all the furore about pedestrianisation, low traffic neighbourhood and the health benefits of walking we have noticed that in reality space for walking is becoming harder to find.

Most highways plans, in fact, do not even refer to spaces for walking any more but spaces for walking and cycling. This probably reflects the success of a well-organised cycling lobby but fails to recognise the inherent conflict between pedestrians, particularly pedestrians with mobility issues, and cyclists in shared spaces.

Cyclists who claimed that they had to use pavements because of the amount of traffic continued to use pavements during the lockdown when there was little or no traffic on the roads. Officialdom still does nothing to stop or even impede cyclists travelling at speed and/or in large groups through the cities pedestrian routes and green spaces.

Some time ago when CART announced it intended to create a high spec metaled surface on the canal towpath local objectors warned that this would turn a much-used foot route into a cycling race track. At the time the cycling lobby mocked this suggestion but anyone using the towpath now will know the objectors were right.

The council has used its emergency powers to widen pavements to allow social distancing but still, nothing is being done about pavement parking which often undoes their efforts, as do restaurants which expand beyond their licenced outdoor table areas or shops who brake the a-board regulations.

Pavements broken up by cars and commercial vehicles remain unrepaired for long periods of time creating further hazards for walkers.

We see calls for more planters in pedestrian spaces in the city as well as calls to greatly expand alfresco dining on city centre pavements and pedestrianised areas. Neither, of these we object to in principle but they do not seem to be part of a well thought through plan and seem to ignore the needs of pedestrians.

Finally, we see calls to allow electric scooters and electric bikes to be added to the skateboards which already weave around startled walkers.

At one stage BANES paid for a well-research strategy for public realm spaces and movement through them but this was never implemented what now seems to be on offer is a smorgasbord of fashionable urban planning experiments often taken out of contexts quite unlike those that prevail in Bath.


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