Many arguments are raging in the county regarding the new safe zones. From Cardigan to Aberystwyth, and Aberaeron and New Quay in between, the safe zones implemented by Ceredigion County Council under emergency rules, are controversial.
Ceredigion Green Party has been arguing for many years that proper pedestrianisation of towns, however small, can only be of benefit to the public as well as to the businesses in those zones. It appears to us that the current safe zones have been installed without any democratic input from local people, whether they are shoppers or business owners.
We recognise the problems that have occurred: car drivers frequently make extra long journeys through narrow roads, causing local pollution levels to soar; disabled people have to struggle with unexpected obstacles on the pavements; delivery drivers cannot access businesses. The changes have been many so that local people don’t know which roads are closed and which ones are open.
Pedestrianisation when properly carried out will be supported by the majority. Case studies around the world show that most of the problems with the extra congestion are short lived. These studies show that traffic over time ‘evaporates’. This is because people change their behaviour. After a while the pedestrianised zones become ‘exchange’ spaces rather than ‘movement’ spaces. Businesses thrive as a result. Disabled people’s needs are prioritised in such zones. Walking and cycling become pleasant. Public transport forms a larger part of the public’s means of reaching town destinations. Access may still be required eg for taxis delivering and collecting disabled people but they would be driving at speeds of less than 5mph. Parking restrictions can be set up for residents only. Delivery drivers too will be restricted in their activities, generally by time. Of course there will be exceptions, and that is where the conversations are so desperately needed, as each town in Ceredigion faces its individual set of circumstances.
Let’s start by having a much needed friendly conversation. Once people argue themselves into a corner, they rarely come out. The outcome we surely all wish to see is town centres that are welcoming, safe, with clean air, places to sit and talk, and interesting shops to spend our time and money in. If we start on that premise, we can find the solution.