THE new crossing point in King Street has generated virulent criticism in Sudbury but those who condemn this project should re-consider.
Traffic engineers are not fools and there is method in their apparent madness.
Little can be done to reduce the volume of traffic in the town centre but the county council has constantly sought to make it more pedestrian-friendly.
Cost matters aside, this is a vitally important policy if we are to attract people to shop here. Pedestrians spend on goods and services keeping the town centre viable, vehicles passing through it do not.
First, why do people want to cross King Street near the Borehamgate Centre? The answer is plain – to get to the other side.
Critics who insist that they should walk to the nearby pedestrian crossing are not looking at the logistics. If you are using the bus station or parking in the rail station area, the new crossing point is the shortest route to and from the Post Office, Co-op supermarket, Santander bank and other businesses on the north side of King Street and in East Street.
It saves walking around almost three sides of a square and crossing three roads instead of one. It is human nature to take the shortest route and the pavement on the south side of King Street is also unpleasantly narrow in this area and heavily used.
The county council traffic engineers have now established a definite crossing point for these ‘lazy’ pedestrians, making their need to cross more obvious to drivers.
There is also method in the apparent folly of widening the traffic island at this point. Vehicles tend to slow down on narrow roads (North Street is evidence of this) because of a natural fear that a pedestrian might step out. In addition, the King Street project is the first stage of a plan to make this whole area more user-friendly for pedestrians.
For too long the car has been king in the town centre.
Nine years ago Stephen Thorpe and I carried out a survey for the Sudbury Society on the provision for pavement users in the town centre including those with disabilities.
Our report concluded that the balance between pedestrians and vehicles was weighted in favour of the driver and that being a pedestrian was frequently stressful.
Among our many recommendations to the county council was the need to provide better provision for pedestrians on key routes such as this one. The county council traffic and safety manager described our detailed, illustrated report as “extremely useful,” and told the Society it would be considered in conjunction with their action plan for Sudbury.
It is very gratifying that in the intervening years so many of our recommendations have been carried out, including work in King Street.
Others include pavement widening at the pedestrian crossing in Gainsborough Street, and a safe designated crossing point between North Street and the Post Office area.
Most, if not all, of the dropped kerbs we suggested have been put in place, including the one that gives wheelchair and pushchair users easy access to the market from the pavement on front of St Peter’s.
We should applaud the county council’s traffic engineers for seeking to make the town centre a safer and friendlier environment for pavements users.
Given these facts, more of us should accept that the King Street crossing is not such a waste of money after all.
Driver, pedestrian, wheelchair pusher and occasional user of a mobility scooter