Ban cars

See what I mean…

We like to visit Hexham. It is not too far away, has some nice cafes and the walks through the park are pleasant. Going there feels like a little holiday. 

We have our route that we follow, parking at the bottom of Cowgarth before making our way to the Refectory cafe. They make lovely cheese scones. From there we make our way through the park before coming out and walking along Priestpopple towards the shopping area.

If you know Hexham you will know that the pavements on the main road are narrow. Two people can pass by yet if there is anyone in a wheelchair or anyone with a pram then you’re going to struggle. Occasionally you are forced to step into the road and face the danger of being struck by a vehicle. At times it can all feel very uncomfortable and I am glad when we turn into Fore Street where vehicles aren’t allowed.

This time though, something was different. For some reason the easterly carriage had been blocked off on the B6305. I have no idea why but it meant that no traffic was flowing, at least on our side of the street. The difference was palpable. The road was less noisy, felt much safer and more enjoyable. It was a pleasure to amble, browsing in the shop windows and talking to each other without raising our voices.  In short, the lack of vehicles made visiting Hexham more enjoyable.

I accept that I drove to the town and that banning cars outright would be a problem yet severely restricting them in town centres would enhance the experience of a visit. The issue with the B6305 is that it is a through route and many of the vehicles simply pass through, adding nothing to the town. Vehicles that need to pass through should pass round instead.

I read with interest that some cities, such as Seville are experimenting with car-less centres, pedestrianising them instead. The inordinate amount of space given over to the car is instead turned into public parks and recreational areas. Apparently footfall rises as does satisfaction with the city and the people want it to stay that way.

Small towns were never designed for the car and as they have got bigger over the years, their impact has increased. It is time to reverse the trend, remove traffic from town centres and let people reclaim the space.

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