To say I was disappointed when the Aberdeen City Council announced in June 2016 they were to go ahead with a part-pedestrianisation of Broad St is to say I’m unmoved by a bit of snow. Perhaps I get too emotional about these things but just as I’m overjoyed to see snow, I was deeply saddened to hear about Broad St.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely in favour of mass transit because private motor vehicles will never solve the transport problems in cities today. However a pedestrian area is meant for people, not motor vehicles. An area that allows buses is not a pedestrian zone. It’s not even a part-pedestrian zone. It’s really a road for motor vehicles but where private motor vehicles are banned. If you make people think it’s a pedestrian zone then there will be accidents.
This is exactly what has happened in Manners St, Wellington, New Zealand, when they allowed buses through a pedestrian mall in 2010. Within two days of opening, two people were hit by buses. Since then there have been repeated accidents year after year on the same stretch of road with the most recent being in November 2017. The bus drivers are not to blame. Indeed I’ve read that they find this particular stretch of road particularly stressful because pedestrians are always stepping out in front of them and they have to be extra vigilant. Why do people step out in front of a bus? It seems a silly thing to do, but, as with software, if users are constantly making the same mistake then the problem lies with the design, not the user. Part-pedestrianisation gives people a false sense of security. They are not expecting motor vehicles and so they don’t look out for them.
What can they do to fix this problem? The solution is simple. It’s either a pedestrian zone or it isn’t. There is no such thing as part-pedestrianisation. The Wellington City council has been struggling to solve their problem for seven years now. At one point they even considered erecting barrier fencing. Let’s not make the same mistake in Aberdeen. A town in England, Boston, has a similar problem and they addressed it by making buses play a loud, electronic sound when they drive through the area. Listen to this and see what you think:
It’s awful, isn’t it? But it’s not too late. If you live in Aberdeen, please write to the city council and ask them to reconsider their decision to allow buses on Broad St. This issue will be discussed again at a council meeting on March 5th.