I’ve been thinking a lot about the challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 offers to the way we use our streets and roads here in Winchester.
The lower level of traffic is causing some immediate problems, such as increased speeding; revealing other problems, particularly in places where our pavements are too narrow for the number of people who want to use them; and also showing great opportunities, with a big increase in walking and cycling, particularly on our rural roads.
As we move into the recovery phase, we also need to do more to make our centres “social distancing” friendly. This means wider pavements and, learning from other countries, more opportunities for businesses to have widely spaced outdoor seating areas. People need to feel confident and safe coming back to our towns and villages knowing that they can easily move around in a socially distanced way.
What sort of measures would this give us?
- We need to tackle the heavily walked and queuing areas where the pavements are too narrow and the roads are too wide. An obvious place to start is the one-way system. I’d like to see if we could cone the whole one-way system down to a single lane with the rest reserved for walkers and cyclists – single lane in North Walls – single lane in St George’s St – narrowed single lane in Jewry St – narrowed single lane in the upper section of the High Street. If possible, we also need to do something for pedestrians on City Bridge and Romsey Road bridge too (although given both are heavily used by buses, this will be harder).
- We need to cut cars and lock in the change on roads where we have seen a dramatic increase in leisure usage. In my own area the road where this is most visible is Sarum Road. I’m sure there are plenty more. As a minimum, we need signage which shows that this is a road where cars drivers are not the priority users and should expect heavy foot and cycle usage.
- On speed, we need to finish the job in Winchester and extend the 20 mph zone to residential areas across the whole city. We also need to narrow roads and widen pavements or add cycle lanes where there is a particular risk of people driving too fast. I would love to see up an uphill cycle lane on Chilbolton Avenue, for example.
- We need to create space for businesses to use the highway for widely spaced outdoor seating. The most obvious option to do this is to fully pedestrianise the Square. We may need a couple of blue badge parking spots for people who need parking near the centre, but we should definitely stop through traffic.
- Finally, one minor irritant that I know concerns some people. We need to revisit our push button crossings. Can we make them sensor or timer driven – so we don’t all need to push the button?
Make sense? Any streets, roads or priorities I’ve missed?
One of my responsibilities at the council is the City of Winchester Movement Strategy, so I’m already talking a lot with council officers and engineers at the City Council and County Council about how we can improve our streets. I promise to pass on any ideas that people send through!