Monica Saunders (left) and Charlotte Baker (right) at a stall in St Margaret's Fair

Campaign group calls for greater pedestrianisation of Richmond borough

A Richmond group is campaigning for a safer and more sustainable borough through pedestrianisation.

Richmond Living Streets, a branch of the campaign group Living Streets, was formed in May to address the impacts of high car-use within the community.

Charlotte Baker and Monica Saunders, co-chairs of the group, discussed ways in which greater pedestrianisation can be achieved, and the benefits of it.

They mentioned current priorities for the area, including an expansion of the school streets initiative, which aims to make roads outside schools more pedestrian-friendly. 

Speed was also cited as a key issue with vehicle-use, with evidence that children struggle to judge the speed of vehicles.

“Speed is the decisive factor as to whether somebody lives or dies,” Saunders said.

Other priorities included changing parking-policy in favour of creating more liveable neighbourhoods, and pedestrianisation of town-centres.

When discussing the benefits of the plans, ones noted included improved safety, greater environmental sustainability and closer social-bonds between community members.

They also discussed issues with unsafe roads, with the Manor Circus roundabout and Chalker’s Corner being given as examples of dangerous roads for pedestrians.

The road outside Stanley School in Teddington was also cited as needing improvements in safety.

When discussing potential opposition to their campaign, they said they have not yet faced any but noted that there can be controversy to their plans.

They added that they understand people’s concerns with some of their plans, saying they’re willing to listen and engage.

They also emphasised the struggles lots of people face when walking in a highly car-dominated neighbourhood.

“There’s often a silent majority that support these measures, and there’s a vocal minority that will be against anything that restricts them moving somewhere in their car,” Baker said. 

When asked about plans surrounding pedestrianisation, Richmond Council said they currently do not have plans to pedestrianise new areas.

They did, however, add that they are planning to deliver cleaner air and safer movement through schemes such as the school streets initiative.

When asked about their personal reasons for advocacy, both Baker and Saunders spoke about how vehicle-domination had impacted them.

Saunders experienced a traffic collision while she was cycling, something which made her feel stronger towards the issue of road safety.

Both also developed pollution-exacerbated asthma, which increased their activeness in campaigning in favour of cleaner air.

Both were also concerned about the climate crisis and the impacts cars and motorists have on the environment.

Saunders also mentioned her experiences walking with her elderly father, and how the streets were often difficult for him to use as a pedestrian.

They also emphasised the importance of people looking after their own local areas.

“Look at your immediate neighbourhood and think, what are the changes you could do on your street,” Saunders said.

Richmond Living Streets held their first meeting on Thursday night at Twickenham Exchange.

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