Essex Chronicle - Chelmsford roads
I was recently invited to write for our local paper, the Essex Chronicle.
My first article was published last week, and now that the edition is no longer on sale, I have reproduced the article below in full.
My eldest daughter turned 14 recently. As any parent will tell you, time flies when you have kids, and it’s strange to think that three years ago we were thinking about her 11+. Three years from now she will be learning to drive.
At least, I presume that will be the case. I learnt to drive in the mid 90s at the age of 17 and having a car was a form of independence and freedom for me. It allowed me to travel several miles quickly and expanded my sense of what was local.
My daughter is unlikely to enjoy that same freedom though.
With city status, Chelmsford is growing. It only needs a cursory glance at the city centre to see the changes. New flats built or planned near the station and cricket ground. The Royal Mail office on Victoria Road has finally closed, ready to be redeveloped by Waitrose and the Army and Navy roadworks are in full swing ahead of a new Aldi supermarket being built.
There are also developments announced which are yet to make an indent on the local landscape. Just last month, for example, we heard that there is a monumental 18 miles of new cycle network in the pipeline.
Yet the glaringly obvious needs of England’s newest city are being ignored.
As my daughter celebrated her birthday with an early evening party at Lush just before 6pm on Friday, some of the invitees were stuck in traffic in and around Chelmsford.
The entire length of Springfield Road, the span of the bridge on High Bridge Road, and both directions on Parkway were – yet again – at a relative standstill.
The “experimental” amendments to the Odeon roundabout roughly three years ago, which saw anyone approaching the Odeon or the Western part of Baddow Road have to drive up and down the length of Parkway to gain access, are still in place. Despite traffic signs on lampposts insisting the changes were an experiment, they are here to stay.
All the amendments seem to have done, however, is snarl traffic up even further. Brought in to free up traffic on Parkway itself, it has simply rerouted the problem to different areas without any noticeable benefit to the roads it was brought in to help.
With a propensity to sit across the front of cars trying to exit various branches of the roundabout, Chelmsford’s drivers certainly don’t help to ease congestion.
I never thought I’d say this, but perhaps it is time to consider traffic lights on the Odeon roundabout to ease congestion throughout the city centre until a more suitable solution is provided.
The most appealing solution is, of course, the glaring omission of an extra lane on the flyover – an expensive solution but one that we have been crying out for in the area for eons.
All of a sudden the expanse of cycle paths doesn’t seem so vast after all.
For my daughter and her friends – some of whom spent more than 40 minutes trying to get down Springfield Road during that dark Friday rush hour – I would suggest not counting on a car to give you your freedom at 17.
Perhaps instead invest in a decent bike and some good quality hi-visibility clothing. Embrace the health benefits that cycling brings and laugh heartily at the many car drivers you speed past as they sit, practically motionless, in the miles of traffic that city vehicles will soon be calling home.
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