This article was published in 2015, in Newsletter 123.
Prompted by a recent tale of bullying driver behaviour, I decided to revisit thoughts I’ve had before on what to do about Romsey, specifically north of Mill Road.
The old terraced houses form a charming warren of narrow streets. Yet cycling through here can often be a stressful experience. It really doesn’t have to be this way. There are three issues.
Firstly, the road surfaces. Between crumbling tarmac and dented speed bumps, simply cycling along an empty street here takes concentration. Beneath the surface, the old pipes carrying services are crumbling, made worse by motor vehicles pounding them, so the surface sags and breaks up. Fixing this is a cycling issue. But it is quite expensive.
Secondly, parking. It’s known anecdotally that these streets are extensively used as free parking for the railway station. On some streets, parking capacity was increased years ago at the expense of pedestrians by permitting drivers to mount the footway. Supposedly this should leave enough footway clear for pushchairs, wheelchairs etc – if the vehicles are kept within the markings. In practice this often is not the case, especially with vans and larger cars. Furthermore, bin day can leave the footway entirely blocked.
So fixing this issue has two strands. First, end the disaster of the pavement parking. This should be very cheap. Second, create a controlled parking zone. This may be unpopular with some residents, who’ll now have to pay to store their car on the highway -in an area where off-street parking is rare – but should be of advantage to the majority. Car ownership is low in this area. The properties are narrower than the length of a car, and not all the street length is available for parking anyway. This will need political leadership from councillors, much more than was shown with the Thoday Street bike parking issue.
Thirdly, through motor traffic. From my experience, and from many other anecdotes, it seems that the most aggressive driving is encountered by drivers using the Romsey streets as a shortcut between Mill Road and Coldham’s Lane. The gym by the railway bridge especially is a source of angry, impatient drivers. The builders’ merchant is another source, though this is scheduled to be replaced by a residential development incorporating the Chisholm Trail.
A simple solution presents itself. At Fairfax Road are a number of width restrictions, preventing large vehicles using these rat-runs. Their design suggests they were installed at the same time as the streets in Petersfield were closed to through motor traffic. This shows what should be done. And it should be inexpensive. Residents would only be slightly affected adding maybe half a mile to some car journeys. It would reduce traffic on their streets, making them more pleasant places to live.
So, a three-step plan. Given the costs and politics involved, I’d reverse the order. Reduce the through motor traffic. Reduce the parking. Rebuild the streets. In doing so, reclaim Romsey as a place to live, not a place to drive through and store cars.