On Thursday afternoon I witnessed a double decker bus become stuck trying to negotiate the turn from Tower Street down into the Landgate. The bus couldn’t get around a van parked on the yellow lines outside the accountants. As a result Cinque Ports Street and Station Approach rapidly became gridlocked.
Obstruction of lorries and buses by illegally parked vehicles near this corner is starting to happen so regularly now that its hardly newsworthy. However, on this occasion two fire engines were attending an incident at the Rye Lodge hotel nearby. If any further emergency vehicles were needed they would have been unable to reach the hotel because of all the traffic blocked up behind the bus all the way down Cinque Ports Street.
The situation was both dangerous and farcical. Prior to the arrival of the bus two teenagers on bicycles and a gentleman with a motorbike used their initiative and blocked access through the Landgate Arch so that vehicles would not become stuck behind the fire engines. Meanwhile, a call to 101 asking for police assistance proved fruitless – after many minutes of listening to recorded messages, including one long one from the Chief Constable, I eventually spoke to an operator. He then put me in yet another queue. Seven or eight minutes later I still hadn’t been able to report the problem and then the double decker bus arrived. At that point, after consultation with bus driver, who did not happen to have his own phone, we decided to call 999.
The farce deepened. The person at the other end couldn’t seem to understand where the Landgate or Tower Street actually was. Whilst I was trying to explain this the owner of the van appeared and then rapidly drove off. Eventually after seeing several police cars in the vicinity who were clearly unaware of the incident and did not stop, two police officers appeared on foot and they took over the traffic management from the small group of volunteers.
There have already been a number of documented incidents of emergency vehicles being obstructed or delayed trying to get into the town centre. In one instance an ambulance was unable to get down the High Street to attend to a person suffering a cardiac arrest because a car had parked on the corner by the viewing platform at Hilders Cliff. Another time fire engines trying to get round the corner at the top of East Street to gain access to Church Square were unable to do so because of cars parked all around the corner into Market Street. They were forced to reverse all the way down East Street and drive the wrong way up Lion Street. Tonight, as I am writing this there are cars similarly parked all around that corner, as there were last weekend. An emergency vehicle trying to drive the wrong way up Lion Street probably wouldn’t clear that corner at the top either because of yet more cars parked all along the double yellow lines.
Obstruction of emergency vehicles is only one part of the major traffic and parking problems all across the town. With no parking enforcement and no traffic regulation in the foreseeable future these problems can only get worse. On some weekends parking seems to have reached saturation point, all the big car parks are completely full and all round the town vehicles are parked on every available bit of road space, on every bend and corner. The goods vehicle loading bay is frequently full of cars, sometimes parked for hours at a time. The turn from the High Street down into Market Road must be one of the most consistently dangerous points for pedestrians in the whole town, particularly for those with pushchairs or impaired mobility.
Yesterday I learned that a small child stepped out of the door of a shop in Lion Street straight into the path of a car which was travelling down the pavement in order to get round a van parked opposite. Fortunately the car driver stopped in time. On another occasion the outcome might not be so fortunate.
Enough of all the farce associated with traffic and parking in this town please, we really are getting to the point where lives are being put at risk.
[Editor’s note: While it is purely coincidental that we should have two other articles on the subject of traffic also in this issue, (see News and Opinion pages) it highlights the problems currently caused by complete lack of any parking control or any plan to deal with traffic as a whole. If this is not attended to with some degree of urgency, there is no doubt that at some point an entirely avoidable tragedy will occur]
Photos: Kenneth Bird