THE PEDESTRIANISATION OF NORWICH CITY CENTRE

by James Anthony

I never thought I’d start off a serious article by writing about talking during sex, but here we are. It’s a slightly awkward subject, and one that the world of comedy is not afraid to touch upon. Specifically, I’m referring to everyone’s favourite fictional radio presenter, Alan Partridge, who is no stranger to the delicate topic of conversations mid-intercourse. I’m Alan Partridge brought to British comedy a very memorable line, during a less than steamy sex scene, in which Alan asks his partner just what she thinks of the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre.

Aside from being a line used as a sure-fire way to detect a fellow Partridge fan, those outside of Norwich may not realise that we recently celebrated fifty years since the first high street in the city became pedestrianised, and that the debate around the motorist vs pedestrian issue continues to rage on. It is very much to this day – as Alan himself would say – a ‘hot topic’.

Norwich is very proud to claim to be the first city to fully pedestrianise a road.

Norwich is very proud to claim to be the first city to fully pedestrianise a road. London Street was closed off to all vehicles in July 1967, marked by the Lord Mayor tying a ribbon across the street – a ceremony that was recently repeated to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the road being closed. Despite Alan’s opposition to the scheme (he was famously ‘dead against it’ as traders needed access to Dixons, in case you were wondering why), pedestrianisation has continued across the city, with a large portion of it now closed off to vehicles.

A central area including Westlegate, All Saints Street, and Red Lion Street, with many other areas of the city open only to taxis and certain bus services, means that driving around Norwich has become far more difficult than ten or so years ago, which is when I remember my parents using a car in the city. Giving directions is a challenge without remembering where cars can and can’t go, and traffic often seems backed up further on main roads surrounding the centre.

Having been involved in local politics for a while now, it’s also a big talking point amongst Norwich residents. Many channel Alan Partridge’s viewpoint, claiming that cars need access to the city centre, and even more regular is the complaint that pedestrianisation is an ideological fight against the demographic that drive cars regularly.

However, I see it as a necessary push to make our city less harmful to the environment and a much more charming place to be. Is it such a bad thing to not want excess pollution in Norwich? Air pollution levels were found to be dangerously high in certain areas recently and it would be extremely regressive to reintroduce cars into the city centre. Personally, I’m not sure it’s possible to argue that pedestrianisation hasn’t made Norwich a better place to live and work. Wandering past the market, the bars, and the shops without worrying about traffic makes the city centre an extra pleasant place to socialise, and it makes pedestrianisation another aspect of our fine city that I am truly proud of.

I’m oddly pleased that it’s yet another example of Norwich pioneering progressive policies to help the environment.

Shutting off parts of our city really is something strange to be famous for in the comedy world, but I’m oddly pleased that it’s yet another example of Norwich pioneering progressive policies to help the environment. Am I happy with the pedestrianisation of Norwich City Centre? As Partridge himself might  say, I think it’s ‘lovely stuff’.

Featured image via Norwich City Council

 


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