Today has seen Bradford on Avon make significant changes to its roads resulting in concerns from the public over safety and problems faced by emergency vehicles responding to incidents.
In response to the Government’s guidance on social distancing, the town introduced a one-way system, with the town bridge being reduced to single direction traffic controlled by traffic lights.
This is to allow the affected roads to be more widely used by pedestrians in maintaining distance from one another. The town bridge has physical barriers to show this, however, Market street and Silver street have only been marked with solid white lines, and there is a widespread lack of understanding shown by both drivers and pedestrians of the purpose of the lines.
The most obvious impact is a large increase in queued traffic making it significantly slower for vehicles to go from one side of the town to the other resulting in many disgruntled and unhappy drivers.
A parking warden reported an increase in verbal anger directed at them despite their role not being connected with the alterations and a local postal worker reported that it had increased the time it took to complete their work.
A trader from the once a week open-air market was unhappy with the lack of warning they had received and bad signposting. They had also noticed a drop in foot traffic, possibly due to the traffic issues.
Concern has been strongly expressed by residents of the town at the impact of these changes on emergency services responding to incidents, and ambulances carrying patients being significantly held up. By lunchtime on the first day of the changes, there were already reports of an ambulance using sirens and lights being unable to make its way through the centre of the town without suffering bad delays.
With the stationary traffic extending half a mile in either direction from the bridge during non-rush hour and expected to get significantly worse during rush other these are significant concerns.
Bradford on Avon Town Council said there is likely to be initial congestion and confusion for some commuters passing through the centre, as motorists adjust to the change.
A spokesperson said: “While some journeys by car are unavoidable, please do consider using an alternative method of transport for short cross-town journeys. If you do need to make a car journey and find yourself queuing, please consider switching your engine off to reduce emissions.
“Although the scheme incorporates a partial one-way system, this is solely to provide for adequate walkways for pedestrians to keep social distance in the very centre of the town.
“It is not a trial of any permanent one-way scheme. However, it does give an opportunity to measure other impacts, such as air quality and traffic flow which may influence any future town-wide schemes.“
Adding her take on the scheme, Councillor Sarah Gibson said: “This is an important scheme for Bradford on Avon giving space to pedestrians in the town centre and a good example of collaboration between the Town Council and Wiltshire Council.
“The real data we will be able to obtain from monitoring air quality, vehicles speeds and numbers as well as pedestrian movement over the next few months will be invaluable for the future.”