Shared space still controversial topic

IT’S two years now since Felixstowe’s main shopping area was converted into a shared space for pedestrians and cars – and the controversy still won’t go away.

Hardly a day passes without someone in Hamilton Road giving me their view on the scheme, and it’s the most talked about topic on the Streetlife social networking website.

People still aren’t happy, still think it’s dangerous, still don’t understand how it is supposed to work, and still get angry about those drivers who blatantly disregard the rules.

Safety is still the main concern for most people – and while there have been no accidents to speak of, there have been, anecdotally, many near misses and people on foot clearly don’t feel comfortable sharing the space with moving lumps of metal weighing several tons.

Councillors insist that it is a shared space – but there is very rarely any sharing when a car and a pedestrian are involved: it’s the pedestrian who has to move out of the way.

There are some short memories about though. Surely, no one would want to go back to the dangerous, car-clogged, fume-filled street we had before, where people were forced into the road because of crowded pavements and cars circled round the block like vultures hunting down a parking space. In the final four years of the old street there were 13 injury accidents – six of them serious.

The shared space is certainly a much nicer place to shop and looks a lot better than before.

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It wasn’t as if we weren’t asked if we wanted a shared space – I attended two exhibitions, possibly three, at which the public’s views were sought. I confess that while it sounded great, it was difficult to imagine it in operation.

Every project though is a compromise. A complete traffic ban, was impossible because a) not all the shops have rear entrances for deliveries, and b) no access for disabled drivers would not be tolerated today.

What should have been accomplished though was a ban on through traffic. Unless you are a blue badge holder or a delivery driver, there is no need to go through the shared space – you cannot go down Bent Hill and can reach Orwell Road by much easier, hassle-free driving routes.

New signs are to be put in place to make the shared space safer – perhaps they should simply say “No entry – except Blue Badge holders.”