Our great-grandchildren will curse us for this stupidity
PUBLISHED: 06:38 25 June 2018
Why on earth do we tolerate traffic in the heart of our towns and cities, asks Sharon Griffths.
Our great-grandchildren will be horrified.
“Did they really…? Didn’t they realise…? Were they really so cruel and unthinking?” they will say of us.
We, of course, think we’re supremely civilised. After all, we no longer have open sewers choking city streets. We don’t hang small children for stealing bread. We don’t drive single mothers out into the snow or throw their babies on the rubbish heap or parish.
We don’t send eight year olds down mines or onto the land to work 12-hour days, or send workmen to dangle from bridges or perch on high ledges without safety equipment. And legless old soldiers aren’t reduced to selling matches from a tray in all weathers.
We educate our daughters, cherish our babies and think washing machines, fridges and decent broadband are basic necessities.
So why on earth do we allow traffic in our city streets?
The more you think about it, the madder it seems.
Traffic and people don’t mix. If town centres are for shopping or relaxing or conducting business then why do we spend half our time dicing with death as we try and cross roads?
It’s happened so quickly, it’s taken us all by surprise. Even 50 years ago you could drive into town and park near the shops/café/bank - in the days when there were shops and banks… There was traffic but cars and pedestrians shared space reasonably well. There was little sense of danger or pressure either. Young children walked to school in safety, mothers went shopping, fathers walked to work. Towns were still built for people, not traffic.
Now traffic’s taken over. Cars, lorries, buses drive within inches of us all the time and we’re the ones who have to give way. Not that it’s much fun for drivers either. Crossing the road has become a sophisticated manoeuvre. Even without the risk of being mowed down, we’re likely to choke on fumes.
Worst of all for children in buggies, just at exhaust level. History will surely damn us for that. What are we thinking of?
At the moment, cars have won and claimed the streets. That’s why we’re all moving to out-of-town shopping centres where pedestrians don’t fight traffic quite so much.
Even the ancient Romans had more sense. They banned heavy traffic from their cities in most of the hours of daylight. Wagons waited outside the city boundary until night fall. Daytime traffic was limited to a few privileged people were allowed carriages or sedans but everyone else walked.
The idea of a big city – and ancient Rome had a population of about a million or so – in which citizens could walk everywhere sound positively idyllic. They were probably healthier too – as long as they weren’t assassinated.
Meanwhile, we’re in danger of losing the use of our legs. We’re addicted to personal transport and it’s time we got to grips with the problem. A few bits of pedestrianisation here and there, congestion charges and cycle lanes are only nibbling at the edges and aren’t going to change much. We need drastic action, to start from the beginning again.
We need to reclaim our town centre streets from filthy, noisy, dangerous traffic.
Before future generations condemn us as absolutely bonkers.