In The City That Never Walks, Robert Sullivan discusses the changes that some American cities are making to encourage their residents to walk or cycle, rather than taking the car:
places like downtown Albuquerque, where one-way streets have become more pedestrian-friendly two-way streets, and car lanes are replaced by bike lanes, with bike racks everywhere
Some of the schemes listed are already taking place in Darlington, but lots are not.
* a walkable town centre
* purposely limited parking
* a new bus plaza that is part of a mass transit renaissance
* an urban walking and biking trail [linking] neighbourhoods
* charges drivers a fee to enter the core business area
* police sting operations arrest speeding drivers
* replaced parking spaces near a subway station with rows of bike racks
* some traffic lights are programmed to change for approaching buses
We have the Pedestrian Heart, but what of some of the other schemes?
Someone needing to travel between Bishop Auckland or Newton Aycliffe and Darlington for work or education has very little choice but to drive. Should Darlington not be pushing for changes to the train timetable?
Any new scheme in the centre of town seems to need more car parking. When the TK Maxx building was built on the Crown Street car park, why did it need the car park addition? When the Commercial Street development takes place, will the multi-storey car park built near Gladstone Street increase traffic in that area? What will this do to the residents’ health and lifestyles?
Some work is being done to increase the number of off-road walking and cycling tracks around the town, but could more be done? I can almost get from my house to the town centre without touching a main road. Almost. Whatever way I go, I end up having to make the last part of the journey on North Road or Haughton Road. We need these last missing links putting into place.
We could go even further than that, it is possible to link Hurworth village into the Riverside Path/McMullen Road cycle path that gives an off-road link to the town centre and both Further Education colleges, but part of the route is along a muddy bridleway. Imagine being able to ride from Hurworth to the town centre without having to use a main road. It’s possible.
I’ve seen speed cameras on North Road recently, but not as often as I’ve seen speeding cars. I’ve seen traffic wardens, but I see a lot more illegally parked cars, vans and trucks. I see buses sat in queues of traffic, and cyclists on the pavement because they’ve been hounded off the roads by bad driving and too many cars. I hear of people driving to Northallerton, Teesside or Tesco to shop, because it’s so hard and unpleasant to get into the town centre.
Anything put forward as an idea to kerb car use is “branded as anti-car, and thus anti-personal freedom”. Increasing parking charges or a bringing in a congestion charge or road toll is seen as yet another tax on the motorist.
But as matters now stand, the pedestrian [and cyclist] is taxed every day: by delays and emissions […]. Though we think of it as a luxury, the car taxes us, and with it we tax others.
So, let’s see some of the car parking spaces in Abbots Yard or Skinnergate replaced with bike racks. Let’s see some pressure on the train operators to make their timetable useable and useful. Let’s see a crackdown on irresponsible driving before a crackdown on irresponsible cycling. Let’s see buses given more priority at more junctions. Let’s see some effort put in to try and create the missing last sections of the cycle network. Let’s see a blanket 20MPH speed limit across the town.
Let’s stop ‘taxing’ our pedestrians and cyclists and let’s make Darlington a real Sustainable Transport Town.