The results are in and “Shared Space” is the winner…
Few things light up the town more than the incendary question of what to do with the beating heart of Totnes lifeblood; our High Street. The Corona virus pandemic has forced changes with the Town Council arranging to enforce a Saturday Morning pedestrianisation to enable tourists and locals alike to shop without having to contend with a persistent flow of vehicular traffic forcing pedestrians closer together. These weekly events have undoubtedly been popular with visitors on Saturdays but it didn’t come about without considerable resistance in some quarters with plenty of opinions flying around.
The Totnes Pulse investigated this issue and found conflicting results from previous surveys from both The Town Council and from the Chamber of Commerce. So we took it upon ourselves to get an impartial survey of the front-street-facing shops on Fore Street and High Street. We made 6 statements to gauge the strength of feeling each shop had on the subject and asked as many open shops as possible. Of the 68 businesses we successfuly contacted, 20 were members of the Chamber of Commerce.
Here are the results:
Q1: “I think Fore Street and High Street are fine they way they were, pre Covid.”
This statement is to find out how happy businesses were with the space as it was with a 30mph speed limit and an un-enforced Access Only zone. It was an opening question without revealing the following questions.
Q2: “I think the Access Only entrance to the High Street should be strongly enforced“
The junction from MangeTout cafe upwards is Access Only [vehicular traffic is permitted for any activities relating to the space – in other words, no rat-running] . Interestingly many respondents were unaware of this restriction and some were unclear of the definition of “Access Only” which may have had an negative effect on the response. Also, in hindsight and as with the next question, we perhaps should not have included the word ‘strongly’ in the question.
Q3: “I think the 5 mph rule should be strongly enforced“
It quickly became apparent that many shopkeepers felt that 5mph is too slow for people to drive at without stalling a vehicle and a significant number responded negatively on this basis with several offering that 10 – 15mph would be more viable.
Q4: “I think ‘Shared Space’ with pedestrian priority should be introduced“
Many towns such as Brixham, Bournemouth and many others have successfully introduced ‘Shared Space’ which offers a safer space for shoppers and visitors to enjoy a shopping area in a more relaxed atmosphere. The vehicle-free mornings on Saturdays, primarily implemented in light of the pandemic, to enable people to safely queue outside shops, have been very popular with a large number of visitors and shoppers, although it’s not been universally embraced by shops. A minority of shopkeepers, especially in Fore Street, stated that takings on Saturday mornings have been negatively affected.
We gained the very strong impression from both the hard data and lengthy conversations with shopkeepers (incl of course cafés, pubs and restaurants) – whether in favour of or against actual pedestrianisation – that Shared Space is the compromise way forward.
Putting off rat-runners by reducing and slowing the traffic hugely – including possible use of planters narrowing the road, speed bumps and other means – while also encouraging pedestrians to walk in the road, was most widely seen as the best solution looking ahead. An ex leader of the Chamber of Commerce, and shopkeeper, lamented that they had “come so close to achieving Shared Space” a few years ago.
Many spoke optimistically about ending the war between two opposing sides, and grabbing the opportunity now to reach “the only viable compromise” and make it happen.
Q5: “I think the current Saturday morning pedestrianisation should continue“
Although some businesses were clear on their opposition to the Saturday morning road closure, we think it is fair to say that time appears to have thawed some negativity to the pedestrianisation. We asked this question between the 3rd and 4th week of closure. Based on previous responses, it’s perhaps surprising that such a very strong majority of respondents advocated continuing the closure. Some shopkeepers, especially above the King Bill and in the narrows, said 9.00 was too early a start, with shoppers not on the scene till 11, so a later slot – 10-3 / 11-4 etc – would be better.
Q6: “I think the Saturday pedestrianisation should be extended to more days“
Whilst the Saturday morning arrangement proved popular, extending it to Friday or more proves to be a harder sell. While there are some who are passionate for daytime pedestrianisation, eg 10-4, and can forsee delivery firms adapting to the system, others are vehemently opposed.
So that’s how the shopkeepers feel. What do you think?
Please take part in our survey below…
Comment is free, what do you think? Let us know below…
(Our comments display is currently playing up so we will copy them here in the meantime)
Jane Hughes – 18th August – 9:55am – “I like the 5pmh and access only . Shared space maybe better than complete pedestrianisation as useful to have access to building
More parking would be good too!”
Jane – 18th August – 10:17am – “5 mph is a request, 20 mph is the lowest legal speed limit”
DW – 18th August – 10:31am – “The issue of disability access really needs to be prioritised”
Alison Jonas – 18th August – 10:31am – “I completely agree with ‘shared space’, but I think you need to reconsider the ‘pedestrian priority’ this is allowing a false sense of safety, allowing pedestrians to believe it is safe to step out in front of vehicles is a huge mistake and I believe it will not be long before you will see accidents on our roads, Totnes has always had small narrow pavements and car drivers on the whole are considerate and weary of pedestrians, but by giving them the feeling that they have priority over vehicles is dangerous. I don’t believe you are giving road users the credit they deserve to keep themselves and others safe, you will always have the odd ‘rat runner’ but more increasingly you have the cyclist who thinks they can ride at speed the wrong way, and allowing pedestrians to think they have the right of way over a vehicle will add danger and frustration to everyone. Basic respect is all that is needed to keep Totnes High Street harmonious, safe and running smoothly”
Simon – 18th August – 10:46am – “Define shared space? The disabled, residents, Bob and the emergency services need access above the King William but able bodied casual shoppers do not. Delivery drivers should be kept to set hours. Below the King it should remain as is.”
Laura Hayton – 18th August – 11:03am – “It seems very outdated that cars should be allowed by the high street, apart from crucial access and disabled.
Totnes is a thriving independent high street, with locals and tourists enjoying it. They won’t simply stop coming because of a ban on cars. The high street does not lead to car parks, and there is very limited on street parking, so i cant see why it is an issue.Cars put me off, it makes it so cramped in the summer with the tourists. Many other places have gone car free and reaped the benefits. Come on Totnes, keep up!”
Lilah Killock – 18th August – 11:44am – “I am a local resident, also a grandmother. It would be better experience for my grandchildren if less noise, exhaust fumes, etc.”
Alex – 18th August – 12:30pm – “The idea of giving a pedestrian, right of way over a car, seems to trigger lots of people who have adopted the ideology that cars rule supreme. The data in your survey indicates these people are very much in the minority. Let’s not let their voices be heard above the majority. Please can the local Town Council lobby the County Council to seriously consider the use of a retractable bollard. These are used successfully in several Cornish towns. They are also the only assured way to enforce the access only rule.”
Paul T – 18th August – 1:48pm – “If either full pedestrianization, or shared spaces, can be done in parts of Exeter, Newton Abbot, Barnstaple, Plymouth, Brixham, Tiverton, and I understand now Sidmouth (I’ve probably missed some other Devon towns), then so can Totnes – Totnes should’ve been leading by example. Properly enforced limited access (a camera to read number plates perhaps?) for goods vehicles, Bob ‘t’ Bus, and Blue badge holders should be the minimum perhaps with the comprimise of an advisory 10mph limit for those permitted.”
Pruw & Lionel – 18th August – 2:27pm – “Just sat near St Marys church for over two hours. Discounting delivery and other business vehicles such as two bin lorries we counted 130 cars in 2 hours. This equates to slightly over 1 car per minute. I leave you to make of this information what you like!
Correctly the speed limit cannot be lowered to 5 mph. It has already been pointed out that 20 mph is the legal lower limit however much individuals might like – or try – to change it! No-one, except County traffic officers, should be painting such signage on the road.
It should also be remembered that road safety is a ‘shared responsibility’. Pedestrians need to be aware that they are ‘sharing the space’ with other road users and not offload total responsibility onto the car. Check for oncoming vehicles before stepping out.
Quite right about the selfish cyclists coming down the wrong way at speed. Been a bane for years!
As far a putting a retractable bollard in the road: who will decide who has the ‘zappers’? Are all disabled drivers to be given one or will they all be disallowed from the High Street. And who pays? Just saying.”
Syvila – 18th August – 2:47pm – “Shares space seems to me to be by far the most viable and least likely to be opposed. It works elsewhere, including in busy cities, surely it is the forward thinking answer, particularly in a transition town.”
Liz Squara – 18th August – 2:59pm – “High Street retail is already struggling, if you continue to place restrictions on who and how you are allowed to access the main shopping street you will kill it altogether. Pedestrianisation stops many people being able to access the street, you do not have to be disabled to struggle to walk up the hill in Totnes.”
Annie – 18th August – 3:08pm – “Since 2016 we have had an access only/ reduced speed/shared space principle in Totnes.
Sadly our local council has not implemented this.
Chicanes, large planters and other strategies to slow traffic have not been in evidence. I believe it’s because of this that the dialogue about pedestrianisation has again raised its discordant head. Access is always going to be required for residents, disabled shoppers, deliveries and collections as well as shopping. The Tudor layout of much of the town means there is virtually no rear access to many premises.
These are challenging times and Totnes could, I believe, be a flagship high street. If only we could- instead of increasingly closing our town – with a light touch, pave the way for the organic transformation of Totnes to increased walking, cycling and electric vehicles, we might avoid loss of jobs in our economy and remain open for all. Creative thinking is required! Do we want a pedestrian precinct? Or a lively, flowing, thriving marketplace. Decisions made now will have a massive impact on the Totnes of the future.
Museum or Living market town? PS Despite what some people seem to think, I’d bet Totnes is one of the safest high streets in the country.”
Victoria Trow – 18th August – 7:24pm – “Shared space is very much the preferrence for the High Strret. The town council quote literally has planters ready to be placed in strategic spots up the High St, but is still waiting for Devon Countu Coincil and Highways to give the go-ahead. TTCC can do no more without that. Nobody wants to stop genuine shoppers, residents, deliveries, pick-iups from driving up. Surely everyone would like to see the drive-throughs stop. I’ve participated in two traffic surveys when of over 70 vehicles in 30 minutes, over 40 have gone straight through. The Narrows I’m particular suffers very badly from this as vehicles tend to accelerate along there. Window shopping is not an option. Time we all pull together to lobby DCC to do what they need to do to help us protect our High St and help all our wonderful range of shops not simply survive but thrive.”
Sara Mills – 18th August – 7:56pm – “I think the Saturday closure should continue but from 10-4 and it should be extended to Friday. Rat runners should be discouraged by the police as they were at the beginning of lockdown.”
Helen Swan – 18th August – 9:47pm – “thanks for trying to coordinate a difficult issue”
Roger Hollway – 19th August – 7:04am – “Still can’t believe the Shopkeepers opposition to this.
It obviously works so well on Saturdays so why not other days. In 5 years time we will have cars, no shops and obviously no visitors.
I have been trying to support our local shops but with such negativism, I for one won’t go anymore and support these stubborn shopkeepers.”
Sarah Collinson – 19th August – 2:26pm – “Stopping through-traffic / rat-running up the high street is essential – to be safe, any shared space scheme will depend on this – and with new mass housing developments in the pipeline in Collaton St Mary and elsewhere in Torbay and also Dartington, this problem is only going to get worse. There is a real risk to pedestrians already and especially for many people with sensory, cognitive or other disabilities and people with young children. Devon County Council has a duty to find a way to enforce the existing access only rule at the entrance to the High Street, not least because of the additional risks faced by people with disabilities and children and especially due to the addition risks posed by Covid-19 (both transmission risk and risks from being hit by vehicles when stepping into the road to socially distance). The problems posed by Covid have made the Saturday road closures essential to enable access for people who are at higher risk from traffic and Covid as it enables safe social distancing. This is also likely to boost trade for many businesses as people feel generally safer and more relaxed while shopping. When previously living in a village 5 miles away and as a mother of 3 and having a deaf child, I avoided shopping in Totnes for over 10 years because I couldn’t cope with the traffic while trying to keep my children safe – I used to prefer going to shop in Ashburton where the pavements are wider. I have many friends who felt the same and still never come to Totnes to shop because of the traffic problem. There is no question in my mind that the traffic- free times and restricting vehicle access at all times will both keep shoppers safe and boost local trade in the town centre.”
John Cummings – 23rd August – 1:18pm – “Cyclists depend for our lives on our ability to navigate fast-moving motor traffic. Yet, as soon as we share space with pedestrians, such as on a foot-bridge, signs insist “cyclists dismount”, as if we’re incapable of seeing and avoiding slow-moving pedestrians. Yet, when cars share space with pedestrians, such as Totnes High St, there are no laws or signs suggesting this is a dangerous practice. (In the Netherlands, no-one thinks cyclists are especially dangerous, because everyone cycles, including 70 year old grandmothers.) Suggest cyclists be allowed to use the High St in both directions, with pedestrian priority, and people get very angry; suggest cars be allowed to drive up the narrow road, and all sorts of people will find reasons to support this practice. (I cycle up the High St regularly – have you tried it, before you insist on the one way system up?) Air pollution causes premature death to about 30,000 people per year in the UK (Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution). We don’t allow people to poison our water – why should motorists demand the right to poison our air? At a time when encouraging people to switch from driving to cycling or walking would cut pollution, improve health, reduce accidents, reduce the burden on the NHS, ease congestion, be quieter, and reduce climate change, surely a Transition Town worth the name can make our central street safer for both pedestrians and cyclists? To believe some people, tourists who only want to window shop arrive on foot and readily walk up the High St; people who want to spend money arrive by car, and can’t manage to walk from one of our many car parks. ? Doesn’t make sense to me- where’s the evidence? Has anyone done a survey of actual shoppers?”
Shikha – 24th August – 10:20am – “As a disabled person that uses a walker, Fore St and the High St can be quite scary as the pavements are very narrow and there are very few dropped curbs. Make Totnes a disabled friendly town, this will make the town a chosen destination for the disabled, their family’s and their carers.”
Izabella – 07th September – 09:07am – “Creating the same shared space on a Friday as well as Saturday is just going to contribute to stifling the market.
All we need is consideration on all sides.”