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Pedestrians should have priority over traffic in King's Lynn, Lynn News letters

The City of London is planning to introduce them in at least half of its streets. Many European population centres have adopted them already and historic towns, including Lynn, should be thinking about them too.

Currently, it is assumed that roads are for people in vehicles, and footpaths are for people on foot. We could change that so that by law pedestrians always have priority. On roads, pavements, car parks – on every public space in fact.

Too often, currently, a pedestrian may step into a road when a motorist is going too fast to stop in time to prevent an impact. The pedestrian may not have taken sufficient care in crossing. The driver may have been driving too fast for the conditions. Pedestrian priority zones help reduce this problem by defining clearly where responsibility lies.

Pedestrian crossing point on Nar Ouse Way.
Pedestrian crossing point on Nar Ouse Way.

Good pedestrian management systems are in place already. Zebra crossings are pretty successful, although those with pedestrian-controlled buttons can lead to delays in vehicle flow. Pedestrian islands halfway across a busy road work well for people walking, enabling them to cross without having to wait for both traffic lanes to be free at the same time. We have some – although many of our streets are too narrow for them to be practicable.

But pedestrian priority zones would be an advantage for every road user in many busy town centres.

It would work by saying if any driver in a pedestrian priority zone were involved in an accident where a pedestrian is injured or killed, that driver would be assumed guilty and must suffer the consequences.

It would not be a defence for a driver that the pedestrian took insufficient care. It might be a defence if it could be proved that the pedestrian was in any way provocative.

Challenging the status quo like this would be a massive change, but introduced intelligently, the result would be that drivers would respect pedestrians and drive more slowly

Defining the zone where pedestrian priority is adopted would be critical to its success. The Lynn pedestrian priority zone might be all roads between the river and the road corridor from the South Gate to Lynn docks entrance: London Road, St James Road, Railway Road and the first bit of John Kennedy Road.

In the long-term, road surfaces in the zone would be a different colour, or highlighted in some other way.

Such a move would also be an opportunity to make the town centre a no through way, by limiting Purfleet Bridge to emergency traffic and pedestrians.

Another multi-storey car park or two wouldn’t go amiss – in the old post office and behind the Majestic cinema for instance.

Once this scheme is introduced, some drivers might think it would be easier to park on the outskirts of town and walk in, or use a bus or taxi, reducing vehicle numbers and creating a more enjoyable environment.

All town centre roads should have a driving speed limit of 20mph, with 15mph in the pedestrian priority zone.

This is a long-term scheme, but the inherent advantages of a pedestrian priority zone are surely great enough for everyone to embrace the concept, so planning can begin as quickly as possible.

Ken Hill


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