The last few Parish Council meetings have witnessed some strong words over the lack of proper provision for pedestrians in Bunbury. The last meeting in February (2019) saw a large (for PC meetings) number of residents attending along with the Head of the Primary School in Bunbury. Their complaint was that it was difficult and dangerous for children and parents to get to school and generally to walk safely around Bunbury.
The evidence presented by the public was anecdotal and necessarily subjective. However, how safe you feel and your perception of traffic speed is a very big influence on how willing you may be to walk the streets of Bunbury or to allow your children to do so. Any walker knows that a close passing car traveling at or near to 30 mph feels uncomfortable. The closer the car, the more ‘uncomfortable’ one feels. At least that is my experience.
Cars (and all motor vehicles) dominate our way of life in ways that it is not always possible to fully appreciate. Huge sums are spent on enabling people to speed more easily from place to place. The current government is (or claim’s to be) spending £23 billion on road schemes. A further £7.1 billion was also going to Local Government by 2021 for road maintenance and improvements. In contrast, the expenditure on walking and cycling is tiny. The government’s plans an extra £1 million to improve the number of children walking to school. Just stop and compare those numbers. Over £30 Billion for roads and £1 million for helping children walk to school. That’s a 30 thousand times greater expenditure on roads. While there are a number of inexpensive ways to encourage children (and parents) to walk to school rather than drive, I somehow doubt that that one million will buy many extra pavements or 20 mph zones across the entire country.
Some argue that to keep the essential nature of Bunbury it is necessary to retain the open roads with pavements. We can share the space with cars. The village has had no accident that has involved pedestrians over the last 10 years. Furthermore, in the recent survey of traffic speeds in the village there were few incidents of speeding. All good arguments for leaving things alone. The implication being that nothing has really changed so nothing needs to be done. But something has changed.
Before starting school, I was inclined to wander off to the local shops now and again. I liked a 2p Lolly in the summer, (yes it was a long time ago!). By the time I was ready to start school, I knew my neighborhood pretty well. The woods, and rough open ground were we could play out of sight of grown-ups, the stream where we messed about with dams, etc. This was all common knowledge to the local children from about 5 yrs. or earlier.
How many 5 or 6 year olds get to walk to the shops these days, let alone to school. Certainly my older brother and I walked the 2 miles to school from the moment I started. He was just under 7 years old when I started school just before my 5th birthday. We were not exceptional. All the children arrived the same way. Some parents did bring their offspring but the vast majority came on foot. Cars and trucks were about in the mid-1950’s but they were not as common as they are today and most families did not have one let alone 2.
Does that happen today? I do not see children of that age range out and about except with parents. Perhaps my parents and the rest of that generation were wrong to allow such freedom. But maybe it taught us independence, and resilience. Modern parents want their children to grow up as independent and resilient young people. But many would be appalled at the idea their pre-school could walk to the shops to buy a comic!
We can help those parents and therefore the children by reducing some of the perceived risks around the village.
1. Slow the traffic down inside the residential core of the village. Impose 20 mph speed limits. They will take time to bed in with only a slow decline in car speeds at first. But in time people will come to expect slower speeds and most drivers will respond. Maybe even come down to 10 mph around the triangle at the centre by the co-op and butcher’s.
2. Put in pavements where necessary or where that is not allowed (the road is ‘too narrow’ for 1.2m pavements) put up caution signs and if not already part of the 20 mph scheme then include these roads, e.g. Wyche Lane and Wyche Road.
3. At the centre of the village the route too and from school needs to be protected. There should be no parking at the junction of School land and Bunbury Lane. Parking must be illegal here even if it outside their house. it blocks this route if the vehicles are parked during the time for pupils to walk too and from school.
4. Give thought to restricting parking along side the triangle down School Lane. This would give more space for pedestrians even if a pavement cannot be installed. How about a painted area down the left-hand side with pedestrian symbols on the road surface and signage. Perhaps time restricted parking.
5. Parking for staff at the school needs to be sorted. The solution was to be the car on the opposite of the road next to the cricket ground. That has gone into ‘suspended animation’ as the development is stopped for up to two years. The school itself may have space. But one the staff are able to park off street then parent who must drive their children to school will have more space.
I could go on and on … But enough. More action and fewer words are what are needed.