Since the appalling fire at The George I have noticed increased rumblings about getting rid of motorised traffic from Rye High Street. Now, of course, East Sussex have asked the Department of Transport for approval to close the street, according to press reports.
There is a naïve belief that all deliveries can be made before 10am, disabled people will suddenly be able to walk hundreds of metres from the nearest car park, and Rye will then resemble some sort of continental plaza. From my extensive reading of reports on the internet it seems that all does not necessarily end well when traffic is banished.
For example, in Killarney there has been an extensive call for pedestrianisation to be abandoned until the town sorts out its parking problems, and the total gridlock on streets surrounding the traffic-free areas has been sorted out.
In Dartford, there has been a loss of small retailers, the expense of ongoing maintenance and the dilemma of stopping traffic while allowing emergency services and vehicles for disabled.
In Canterbury, the high street used to carry the main Dover to London traffic, an issue of through traffic which does not affect Rye High Street. It was closed, except for market vehicles, and paved with some kind of plastic/rubber substance. Now I’m afraid it is lined with building societies and failing shops such as Debenhams, the main shops having moved away.
Overall, the reviews of pedestrianisation point to the main beneficiaries being tourists, the victims being the local residents and non-tourist businesses.
In the push to ban traffic has the wrong target been identified? When Rye had a regular traffic warden there did not seem to be a problem – parking was kept in limits, access for necessary vehicles was possible, and people from villages surrounding Rye visited regularly.
Rye High Street has many residents, some with children, as well as businesses, a fact which seems to be forgotten. How are they supposed to use modern concepts such as internet shopping, or access any other kind of motorised deliveries?
Imagine the increase in traffic down Deadmans Lane, Mermaid Street, the Strand and surrounding areas, and the further pressure on parking in Military Road, Rope Walk, and Love Lane. We should think very carefully of the long term consequences of what seems like an easy solution.
Image Credits: Gerard Reilly .