Thursday, 18 October 2012

A Tale of Two Cities: San Sebastian vs Brighton and Hove

4 san sebastian P9156630 COM 2 Great news: today's Argus included my article comparing Brighton with San Sebastian. Not such great news: it was published under the headline “Lot to learn from Spanish cycling ways.” Newspapers favour stories which play into a conflict - like motorists vs cyclists - but that wasn’t the point of my article, which was actually about re-modelling Brighton and Hove to be more like San Sebastian: improving the quality of life for visitors and residents, and not just cyclists (although it’s better for cyclists too!)

Here's the original (uncut) article - under it's original title.

A Tale Of Two Cities: San Sebastian vs Brighton And Hove

It was interesting to read in the Argus that Brighton and Hove came a ’narrow second' to Spain’s San Sebastian in the CIVITAS ‘City of the Year’ award in a competition to assess sustainable urban mobility.
By coincidence, I have just returned from a summer holiday in Northern Spain, where I was lucky enough to visit the cities of Santander, Bilbao and San Sebastian, as well as many smaller towns and villages. One thing really stood out: great swathes of these cities and towns have been re-designed to be car-free and car-lite. All were thronged with people walking and cycling as a pleasant, easy, safe and un-polluting way to get around. Although cafes and restaurants were full of people enjoying the delicious cuisine, I saw few signs of obesity. And the shops on these car free streets were busy - in an economic climate that is more challenging than that of the UK.

BLOG P9197002 COM

 In Brighton and Hove there are currently several schemes in the pipeline designed to reduce the dominance of motor traffic, including plans for Seven Dials, Valley Gardens, the Old Town and the Lewes Road. All will help make us a little bit more like these cities in Northern Spain. Yet whenever such a scheme is announced, the columns and comment pages in the Argus fill up with drivers bewailing the effects. It's time that the silent majority - those of us who are expected to put up with cars dominating the public space that we should all be able to enjoy – make our voices heard. The same goes for the endless tirades about parking, which are often accompanied by evidence-free comments about car parking being necessary for economic prosperity - a link that research does not support.

BLOG P9197009 COM
San Sebastian is, in many respects, similar to Brighton and Hove. We are a city of around 250,000 inhabitants compared with San Sebastian’s 180,000. Both cities are coastal holiday destinations with great city beaches (although Brighton is famously pebbly, whilst San Sebastian has golden sand). Both cities have very good public transport, impressive architecture, a warm maritime climate and attract a boho crowd keen on surfing and water sports. Both are full of great places to drink, eat and meet. San Sebastian has an international film festival, Brighton has Britain’s second biggest arts festival. But unlike Brighton and Hove, San Sebastian has had a long term policy to reduce on-street parking and re-allocate the freed-up space for pedestrians and cyclists. Motor traffic has been removed from many roads to improve conditions for pedestrians and enable a joined-up network of segregated safe cycle lanes to be put in place. In the city centre the default speed limit is 30kph (20mph), and there are no guard rails or A boards to get in the way. So when it comes to maximising the potential of our city, although we came a narrow second, we have a lot to learn from San Sebastian. Hasta mañana.

No comments:

Post a Comment