Letters: Wheels vs feet

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Darius Sanai's article on the "warfare" between different road users (1 September) brings to mind experiments where rats competing for scarce resources (in this case road space) quickly display symptoms of stress, aggression and violence.

Be under no illusion, however. Motorists have been the overwhelming winners in the rat-race created by post-war transport policy. This is not to imply that motorists are more rat-like than other road users. Most are also pedestrians, cyclists and bus passengers. But for decades, transport planners have consistently given priority to people travelling in cars when allocating road space, time and money.

John Prescott's transport White Paper made a commitment to changing this allocation, by shifting some of these resources from private cars to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users. Wider pavements, more bus and cycle lanes, better pedestrian crossings and new pedestrian priority areas should be the result. Recent research suggests such measures could lead to traffic "evaporation" rather than gridlock.

As this reallocation takes place, however, it is vital to remember that the needs of pedestrians and cyclists are not identical, even though both have much to gain from traffic reduction. Poorly designed "shared use" routes (such as white lines on pavements) benefit neither group. Walkers need proper pavements, free of all vehicles. Cyclists need safe tracks, in the carriageway or, physically separated from pedestrians, across parks and commons. Otherwise the rat race will continue.



The Pedestrians Association

London EC1