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heritage and traffic

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  • Simon Norton
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 13, 2010
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      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
      surrounding villages.

      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
      of traffic.

      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
      surrounding towns.

      Simon Norton
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