Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Traffic-free Saturday to discourage car use

Traffic-free Saturday to discourage car use

A TRAFFIC-FREE Saturday could be trialled in Henley to encourage people to walk and cycle.

Town councillors say the town centre could be closed during the day with a free bus operating.

Residents and visitors would be encouraged not to use their cars.

However, some councillors said the move would damage tourism and affect shops and other businesses.

Speaking at a meeting of the council’s transport strategy group, Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “I thought it would be a good idea as a way of showing we are a walking, cycling, car-free town and we would encourage families to voluntarily take part.

“There are two ways of doing it: have road closures or engage hearts and minds and say that on a summer’s day we are going to discourage cars coming into town.”

Councillor Lorraine Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street, said traffic-free days would be bad for businesses and disabled visitors.

She said: “This fills me with dread. It would kill tourism in one stroke and makes assumptions that everyone is able-bodied. If my mother wanted to come in there’s no way I could bring her without a car.

“A lot of people come to shop on Saturdays and Sundays — they are the busiest trade days. We can’t predict the weather so if it’s bad we would have a ghost town and people wouldn’t come back.”

Councillor Will Hamilton added: “This would cause absolute chaos in the town. We do it for the Christmas Festival but this would kill tourism.”

Councillor Laurence Plant, who works at Athlete Service in Greys Road car park, suggested a trial.

He said: “I think it’s a brilliant idea but for business owners, start with something like a Wednesday.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann added: “There was a fashion in European countries to declare car-free Sundays which worked better than you might expect.

“I was going to suggest Sunday as a better choice of day because people do more leisure activities. I feel it’s worth a try one day and review how it goes. The idea it will kill tourism in Henley is apocalyptic. Maybe disabled cars could be allowed.”

David McEwen, a member of the environmental group Henley in Transition , said: “There will have been experiments done in other places and sometimes you get surprising results. Some people would find it good to be in the centre of town and walk around without traffic. It would make the centre a much nicer place to be.”

The council is also considering creating cycle paths to encourage more people to use bicycles.

The designated route would include one from the Tesco store off Reading Road to Northfield End via either the station or Trinity Primary School in Vicarage Road.

The routes, along with signage and advertising, could cost about £3,000.

Cllr Gawrysiak said: “I think we should get on with at least two cycle routes.

“The problem I’ve got is how do we sign it? There are cycleways in Bicester that have a blue line on the pavement — do we want that or do we want more street furniture like a metal disk or a blue blob in the road?”

Cllr Plant said Henley was not suited to bicycles.

“I use a bike quite a lot,” he said. “There’s not much width on the roads and pavements to get cyclists past a pedestrian and certainly not a pram.”

Kester George, chairman of Harpsden Parish Council, added: “I used to cycle from Harpsden to Henley to get to school but now it’s unthinkable. I don’t believe it’s possible to find a safe route from Tesco to Northfield End.”

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