This video demonstrates the way a city centre can be transformed for better.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/13826541 w=560&h=315]
I visited Copenhagen many times over nearly 20 years from the mid 1980’s so I have seen how nice the city centre was but how much better it got as speeds were brought down over a wider area and how more facilities were added for pedestrians and cyclists. I worked with friends who lived with frustrations that as car drivers it got harder to park but who also loved the life and energy and social atmosphere that grew where ever the streets were reclaimed from cars.
In Leicester the pedestrianised streets get busier and busier with people which makes a huge contrast with the nearby streets that are smelly, noisy and unpleasant places to be due to the clogged up traffic.
Imagine if Leicester took a long term view of it’s streets and started reclaiming them in an organised way. Keep cars out of the city centre, block more streets to buses, taxi’s and vans. Provide faster cross city cycle routes than mean we only ride on the main pedestrian areas to actually get to the shops rather than to commute.
Imagine if all the main routes into Leicester were transformed into pedestrian and cyclist friendly places. Think how vibrant the Belgrave Road could be if the restaurants could have outside seating, if the pavements were wider and full of people. If there were little noise and pollution from cars, if you could wander freely from shop to shop without being in danger from cars using it as a race track. All it would take is a clean sweep down the road leaving a minimised two lanes (one in each direction) with effective cobbled speed humps, wide cycle tracks on each side, wider pavements cleared of obstructions (the debris of a car focused street in terms of signs etc all blocking the pavement) for pedestrians, a 20mph speed limit and pedestrian/cyclist priority at every junction (so the pavement and cycle paths go level past every side street with cars giving way to get turn on/off).
Look again at the thriving streets in Copenhagen, they have not always been like this. I have been to many of them when they were car dominated and there were few successful shops and businesses, where it was unpleasant at night, where there were few people about.
We could transform our cities. As Leicester claims to be both an Environment City and a Cycle City it would nice to hope that someone has experienced the amazing changes that can come by a change of priorities away from the car.