A challenge to pedestrianisation

Long-time readers of this blog will no doubt be familiar with the story of East Street in Horsham. This is a narrow town centre street that used to be a one-way road, with narrow pavements and plenty of on-street parking, open to vehicles at all times. During 2010 it was converted into a ‘shared space’, with access restrictions imposed, limiting entry only to vehicles loading on the street, and vehicles displaying disabled blue badges, parking on the street.

Then this year a decision was made by the council to close the street entirely to motor vehicles between the hours of 10:30 in the morning, and 4:30 in the afternoon. The background to that decision, and some more history of the street, can be read here.

To summarise, the main problem was a reluctance of most of the people shopping on, and using, the street to ‘share’ the environment with motor vehicles, particularly the larger delivery lorries. The narrow width of the street also meant that the restaurants along the street – of which there are several – could not use the street itself for al fresco dining while it was still open to motor vehicles.

The council sensibly took these concerns on board, and now the street is closed during the main shopping hours of the day, while still open to bicycles, in both directions. I’ve written effusively about the great improvement this made to this part of the town here.

The current arrangement works well; deliveries can be made before 10:30, and after 4:30. These are times when the street is less busy. For the intervening six hours, tables and chairs can come out onto this street, families can let their children play without concern, and the street is quieter and much more pleasant. The improvement, in just two years, has been vast.

East Street, 2010

The same location, 2012

However this partial closure has not met with the approval of all residents; one has voiced his concerns in the local paper this week.

The husband of a disabled woman is angry at plans to permanently pedestrianise East Street, robbing her of suitable town centre disabled parking.

This is incorrect in one immediate respect. The street is not being ‘permanently’ pedestrianised; as I have made clear, the pedestrianisation is only between the hours of 10:30am and 4:30pm.

“The perverse thing is they have already made the changes on a trial basis. It’s just bizarre,” Mr Davis said. “In the whole of Horsham there’s almost nowhere that can accommodate her at all.”

Quite how a scheme can be trialled without actually making the changes that need to be tested is not clear. It is not at all ‘bizarre’ that a trial might actually involve making the proposed changes, to see how they work.

Further, the idea that the closure of one street, which has only a handful of disabled parking spaces on it, is ‘robbing’ this man’s wife of disabled town centre parking, or has the result that there is ‘almost nowhere’ in the town that can accommodate his wife, is hyperbolic.

There is a vast amount of disabled parking available in Horsham’s numerous town centre car parks, as well as plenty of on-street disabled parking bays, to say nothing of the ability of those displaying blue badges to park on any double yellow lines, without causing obstruction, for three hours.

Mr Davis’ wife, who has a rare variation of muscular dystrophy which affects her arms and legs, is able to drive through her wheelchair with the use of her fingers. But the loss of disabled parking in East Street, because of changes, means it is harder for her to make it into the town centre independently.

It is obviously terrible that Mr Davis’ wife has a serious illness. However the town centre is still entirely accessible by car; East Street is not the only route into the town centre. Nor can it seriously be said that there is no longer anywhere to park in the vicinity of East Street. There are two car parks very close by (a matter of 50-100 yards away) both with plenty of disabled spots. I marked these on this satellite map of the surrounding area –

The red circles mark disabled parking bays in existing car parks. Neither are more than 100 yards, by pedestrian routes, from East Street, which runs diagonally from top left, to bottom right.

There are also several streets nearby (including the Carfax, the Causeway, Denne Road, and Park Place) where blue badge holders can park legitimately on double yellow lines. All these locations are of the same order of distance from the restaurants on East Street as one disabled spot on the street could be from a restaurant on the same street.

The particular issue Mr Davis seems to have is that he and his wife are no longer able to park right in front of one or two restaurants on East Street during the middle hours of the day.

The county council declined to comment on whether the only way to reach the new parking bay outside Ask, when the barriers are up in East Street, is to reverse up a one-way street, or on Mr Davis’ call for the consultation to be suspended, or whether a proper impact assessment has been carried out.

If Mr Davis and his wife wish to visit the Ask restaurant, they don’t have to reverse up a one-way street to access a disabled parking bay (which would of course involve breaking the law). They can simply park in the Carfax on a double-yellow line –

This Lexus is parked legitimately on double yellow lines, with a blue badge, in the Carfax. The Ask restaurant is just beyond the ‘no entry’ sign, with the turqoise hoardings. The disabled bay Mr Davis wishes to access, but can’t between 10:30 and 4:30, is by those hoardings.

Or alternatively in the Causeway, again on double yellow lines, with a blue badge.

There are spots available in the Causeway, where this van is parked. The Ask restaurant is marked by the yellow advertising board, about 50 yards away (also visible in the picture above).

Admittedly this means his wife may have to travel up to 50 yards to reach the front door of the restaurant, instead of just ten yards, but in a motorised wheelchair this slight difference in distance is negligible in comparison to the more general difficulty of getting into and around the restaurant.

Similarly there are plenty of other shops and restaurants in Horsham that are inaccessible by car. (Indeed, at a rough estimate, I would say that 80-90% of the shops in Horsham town centre do not have parking spots in front of them – this is partly what makes the town centre so attractive). The main shopping street, West Street, has been completely pedestrianised since the 1980s, as is the case with Middle Street.

West Street. You can’t drive or park down here.

The Carfax, similarly, has been largely pedestrianised for decades, like the Bishopric. The shopping centre, Swan Walk, is of course not open to motor vehicles, nor is Piries Place, where Waitrose is found, along with several other shops.

The disabled have accessed, and continue to access, all these shops and restaurants by the simple method of parking nearby, and then finishing their trip without a car. A car is not necessary for the final stages of these trips.

While I wholeheartedly believe that town centres should be made as friendly for the disabled as possible (and I think uniform surfaces, and cycle tracks, have a big part to play in that role), the disabled cannot expect to be able to drive a car right up the front of every single shop they wish to visit. Why East Street should prove to be an exception is not clear to me.

A man using his mobility scooter to travel down East Street. No car required.

This entry was posted in Horsham, Horsham District Council, Parking, Pedestrianisation, Shared Space, Street closures, West Sussex County Council. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A challenge to pedestrianisation

  1. Arthur Graves says:

    I like your blog. It is generally open and interesting and puts across cyclists point of view in a decent, forthright, kind of way. But is there a chance that on this occation you’ve used it to unfairly pick apart a single argument, rather than keeping on with the overall cycle friendly discussion? It seems a little mean to so dismantle the objection (there are always objections) in this way. Somewhat heavy handed.

    • Edward says:

      I think it can be necessary on occasions to dismantle an objection in this way. When we have consultations like this where I live, often the very loud few drown out the voices of the quiet majority. A loud voice like that of Mr Davis’ can be given disproportionate weight – “my ill wife will be harmed by this. It’s therefore discriminatory”. It’s difficult to argue with the logic without taking it apart carefully, as AEARAB has done. Often the complaints of people like Mr Davis, while well intentioned, are based on false assumptions. They need to be pointed out. Doing so can take time.

  2. Greg Collins says:

    I feel immensely sorry for Mr and Mrs Davis and whilst it is hugely annoying not to be able to park where ever you want to our town centre roads are ‘shared space’. I counted six cars with blue badges parked in a line on the double yellows outside Horsham Waitrose on Saturday. Not much of a problem there for the disabled community of the town it seems.

    I’m not allowed to cycle at 5mph on the paved parts in the Carfax itself but folk on mobility scooters doing twice that speed can ride there with impunity. So it isn’t all a one-way street.

  3. Joe Dunckley says:

    “I’ve written fulsomely about the great improvement this made”
    Are you sure that’s what you meant to say?
    (Sorry, I’m in editor mode.)

  4. I worry how all too often when it comes to streets, disabled is equated with blue badge cars. There is no argument that we need and want to provide for blue badge vehicles for all the obvious reasons. But I suspect that by far the most people with disablities will not have a car and even if they do may not always want or need to drive it. So to undermine the design of a good public space that offers great improvements for all people with disabilities (including those on bikes, on foot, on mobility scooters, the kids and those unable to drive) for the sake of the conveninece of a couple of people seems wrong.
    I would argue that making streets better for walking and cycling will benefit a huge number of disabled people. They just don’t have a blue badge car.

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