Taking to the streets

For the first year in a long time I’m not involved in this year’s Civil Act of Remembrance, and it’s given me a moment to consider some of the wider implications of the event less connected with the thing itself.

I’m not ill, but Janet was covid positive for fifteen days solid and only went clear yesterday, while I have a throaty (but not covid positive) cough which I don’t want to spread amongst the crowded gathering. As Chairman of the Parish Council I generally lead the civil procession behind the RBL flag bearers, but this year I handed it over to another Councillor. It gave me a new and more distant persepective.

I watched from my study as villagers gathered at the hall, ready to process up the road to the memorial outside the church. I watched as volunteers and a couple of CPSO closed off the road to traffic, diverting it through a side road to come out on the other side of the church. I watched as the procession took shape in the road and as it began a slow march away up the road. And I watched as a couple of drivers tried in vain to make their way past the supervised road closed sign. Not many; most were content to follow the diversion, but some.

It made me think about how secondary pedestrians are to traffic, most of the time, and how empowering it is to have the opportunity to walk within ones own village without having to avoid traffic. It made me ponder on the ongoing environmental protests, about the people who sit in the roads and what they might face, and how quiet a place becomes when the only sounds are bird song and subdued conversartion. And how powerful and entitled one can feel behind the wheel.

I am traffic, often. More often recently I’ve been tiny traffic, pedalling furiously and ably assisted by a small electric motor, but I still drive a ‘van, and I still ride a motorbike… I am still traffic. And we need to be able to travel long distances, and carry cargo from point a to point b. Roads are necessary, for the purposes of traffic. but more and more I can see good reasons for making communities where roads join them, rather than plough through them.

I imagine small villages, or suburbs of small towns, which are traffic free. Cars and larger vehicles accessing only the periphery, being parked in the periphery. People islands with traffic moats… Places where pedestrians and cyclists would be the primary movements within the community, walking out to the car park rather than driving out of the dwelling. Would that work? Would it scale up to new cities? Could it work within existing conurbations?

Some of the modern developments in our village have dispensed with the pavement altogether, using the currnet planning phrase “shared spaces”. Predictably, though, they didn’t make the road any wider and so the parked cars make the shared space the middle of the road. And some of our older and more narrow roads have no space to park and allow traffic to pass, so the cars inevitably end up parked on the pavement. Even when they’re not ion use, cars force pedestrians into a secondary position.

This random waffle has no conclusion, I’m afraid. It’s just that I kind of wish we could close the main road through the village more often – celebrate the pedestrian more often, have an opportunity to walk with and chat with our fellow villagers more often. And as the bugle sounded and the silence fell more deeply, to Remember why we must always try harder, and more often, and on all the levels, to find peace.

6 responses to “Taking to the streets”

  1. Glad Janet’s through it, 15 days is brutal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frustrating, more. The symptoms were far lighter than they might have been before all the vaccines. Nonetheless, happy it’s over for now and happy I seem to have remained impervious to the ‘rona. Touches a lot of wood.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Resisting the wood jokes. Almost.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I couldn’t agree more, the ‘car is king’ culture has so much to answer for. A trip to visit our son in Norway earlier this year was a real eye-opener as pedestrians most definitely take priority there, even in a busy city like Stavanger. If you want to throw yourself off a pavement into heavy traffic without looking or wander down the middle of a road, then drivers will stop and wait patiently and politely while you do your thing. Tiny children walk and cycle alone to school because their safety is assured. Different world . . . but one that I think would be perfectly possible anywhere with a slight cultural shift, and how wonderful that would be for communities. Hope you manage to stay Covid-free!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not much of a world traveller, but I particularly like the way, in France, that villages are places of slow and wary driving. I’m not a fan of priorité à driote, mind… but sensibly fast countryside speed limits and much slower ones in built up areas makes so much sense. And pedestrian crossings everywhere!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mmm, priorité à droite is a nightmare and one that is unfortunately being (re)introduced by councils in several places. I just hope they don’t revert to it on roundabouts! That said, I feel much safer riding my bike here than I did in rural Shropshire and Wales.

        Liked by 1 person

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