heritage and traffic
- One of the ideas which was imported into the UK from continental Europe some
years ago was that of Heritage Open Days, when interesting buildings are opened
to the public specially.
I don't know to what extent the dates vary, but for England outside London this
year's dates were last weekend.
The town I chose for this year's visits was Hitchin, on the railway between
Cambridge and London, which had 17 participating sites including some in the
The experience of exploring a historic town like Hitchin brings home very well
the extent to which such towns are spoilt by excessive traffic, especially when
it is given priority over pedestrians at key locations.
This made me wonder -- how about combining Heritage Open Days with Car-Free
Days ? Only the car-freeness would have to be more than symbolic and limited to
a few streets, there would have to be a real reduction in traffic volumes
including on surrounding rural roads.
Hitchin does have quite a few car-free walking routes but they are often not
shown on maps and tend not to link up. There are also lots of rights of way in
the surroundong countryside but in practice if one wants to get from A to B a
significant amount of walking may have to be on roads, some of which (in this
case especially the road between Hitchin and Great Wymondley) carry quite a lot
I think that it's in the Hitchins of this world that the battle for sustainable
transport in countries like the UK will be won or lost, not the Londons or even
the Cambridges. In places like Hitchin problems with traffic flow tend to be
confined to peak times (though they can still cause acute inconvenience to
people travelling by bus), and unavailability of public transport tends to be
the biggest problem, both in the extremities of the town (which are further than
most people are prepared to walk, though cycling may be an option for those who
don't mind the traffic), in surrounding villages, and for journeys to