6 May 2010

Letter to Herts Advertiser,published 22 April 2010


Philip Gregory is wrong to accuse St Albans Council of installing dangerous cycle lanes on St Peters Street (Stop this planning madness, April 8). The responsibility for the sorry saga of a scheme that was supposed to improve the lot of pedestrians and cyclists in the city centre rests with Herts Highways.
St Albans Council, working with the St Albans Cycle Campaign, actually deserve a pat on the back. SADC reinstated the existing cycle parking that Herts Highways took out, and then added more. St Albans Council also brought us the Car Club, unfortunately there was not enough take up by the citizens to sustain it, and it was withdrawn.
Mr Gregory's suggested solution to the town centre parking problem will not work. In fact, all the many problems that appear regularly in the newspaper in reports and incorrespondence - parking woes, congestion, air pollution, city centre decline, potholes - are all down to a very simple situation: too many cars. The only workable solution to all these problems is: fewer cars.
There are more cars than parking spaces, there are more cars than the junctions can cope with. Fiddling with traffic lights or one way systems will not solve congestion, it merely moves the traffic queue and the consequent emissions somewhere else. Even potholes - yes, Herts Highways could do better, but the roads take a pounding. The roads would last longer in better condition if they were not so heavily loaded by nose-to-tail traffic.
The solution is more walking and cycling. No emissions to speak of, quicker and more convenient than the car. Yes, really. Correspondents complain of taking 20 minutes to find a parking space, which is enough time to walk a mile. Walking along Lattimore Road or Catherine Street it is routine to overtake a long queue of traffic. Even on more open roads, if there is a junction or traffic lights, a bicycle is as fast as a car: I always reach the lights at the King William before the cars which overtook me along Sandridge Road have gone. Lots of shopping? Bring a trolley, fit panniers on your bike, catch a bus or take a cab home - you've not shelled out for petrol or parking after all.
Walking and cycling are good for our health as individuals. Walking and cycling instead of driving means less air pollution, less noise, more attractive streets, more sociable streets, all good for our city and citizens. No doubt some readers will condemn this letter as 'anti-car'. They are blinkered. Walking and cycling are pro-people modes of transport that do not suffer from or cause parking problems or slow traffic movement.
Anyway, why wait for the Council to spoon feed solutions? Be a doer, get walking and cycling! You will look younger, feel normal and enjoy street life!

Rona Wightman

I am not as tactful as Tom Spaven when writing to the press, I am quite blunt! But if you allow for difference in style, I am saying much the same as Tom did in a letter to the local press published in 2007 - check out other posts under the Local Press tag.
Reading through again, I am perhaps a little hard on Herts Highways - as a member of the public I will always grumble that they should do better, but they do a tremendous amount reasonably well in demanding circumstances and that should not go unappreciated.
And they are brave enough to come along to our meeting on 20th May and promote 20mph, so whilst I reserve the right to grumble, I am eager to encourage and support our public servants in their endeavours to improve our highways infrastructure for the cycling and walking public.
Do use the pothole reporting section on the hertsdirect website, it gets action. Rona

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