Thursday, 24 May 2012

Improving Brighton’s Old Town: No Time Toulouse

 blog photo old town The front page of yesterday’s Brighton Argus screamed “Car Ban for the Lanes?”, as if it was The End of Civilization As We Know It.  The paper’s website took a more measured approach, under the headline “Could Brighton’s Lanes be Pedestrianised?”  To which the answer is yes, bring it on. The Council’s proposals relate to traffic management in Brighton’s Old Town, the area bounded by East Street, North Street, West Street and the sea and which is the historic core of Brighton, originally the old fishing town of Brighthelmstone. The current street pattern dates from the 13th Century, and is well-known for The Lanes, an intricate maze of twisting alleyways which is one of the major destinations in the city for tourists and locals. Most of the comments underneath the article on the Argus website seem to favour pedestrianisation, which means supporting two proposals: first, going ahead with a plan, and second, choosing what is essentially Car Ban (Option A) instead of Car Lite (Option B). Full details are on the Council website, and it’s time to send in your views – whether a resident, business or visitor.
blog P5174044 Having just got back from a few days in Toulouse, La Ville Rosé, in south west France, the way forward couldn’t be more clear: it’s time to take the traffic out of Brighton’s Old Town. As the council’s proposal explains, “a significant proportion of traffic in the Old Town is through traffic, with 40% of vehicles entering the Old Town via Ship Street leaving within five minutes…. On a typical Saturday an average of 200 vehicles an hour drive in to the Old Town, compared with 600 pedestrians entering via East Street alone…This volume of traffic is unsuitable for the Old Town as it detracts from the character of the area by dominating road space, creating noise and pollution, and increasing the potential for conflict between pedestrians and vehicles…..walking around The Lanes is one of Brighton’s highlights, however in parts of the Old Town traffic dominates the area forcing pedestrians to crowd onto narrow footways.”
blog P5184014 In Toulouse, a city of around 750,000 people (three times the size of Brighton and Hove), there is no on-street parking in the centre of the city, and cars, except for taxis, emergency vehicles and deliveries, are not allowed. Naturally, there’s also a city-wide bicycle rental scheme called VélôToulouse, with bicycles available from automated stations for a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly subscription. blog x P5173984 The result is that the centre of Toulouse is a place where everyone can enjoy the streets. There is no shortage of shops and shoppers, despite the oft-repeated (and largely un-evidenced) claims about parking being the key to retail prosperity. blog P5194089 These pictures give a glimpse of the city, where more improvements are still taking place – and provide a taster of what Brighton could be like with the traffic taken out. blog P5194077 So Brighton might not get to be La Ville Rosé, but we might get closer to La Vie en Rose by taking the cars out of our most historic district – so check out the plans, visit the exhibition, and get on the website to express a view before the beginning of July - there really is no time Toulouse.

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