How do you solve a problem like Exchange Street? What if you simply invited people to chat in the street? Peter Silburn joined in the fun
Both Norfolk County Council and the police have acknowledged that ultimately camera enforcement will be needed to ensure compliance with the Pedestrian and Cycle Zone on Exchange Street. In the meantime drivers continue to flout the restriction every hour of the day.
Car-Free Norwich decided enough was enough and put the word out for a low-key action last Saturday by inviting people to gather in the street and remind any motorists trying to drive down it that they are breaking the law and risk getting a fine.
Things can get quite heated when drivers are told they shouldn’t be there so it was instructive to witness how a group of people just gathered in the street chatting and drinking coffee disarmed most drivers.
For two hours over lunchtime the street performed its intended function as a pedestrianized zone. People could walk in safety without the noise and pollution of motor traffic. Plenty of cyclists, including deliveries and cargo bikes, could continue to access the street. Diners in the outdoor seating areas could actually enjoy sitting there.
There are obvious exemptions to the restriction: a police car under blue lights, an ambulance, a bin lorry and a post office van were let through. The police did turn up at one point to remind us of this. Some motorcyclists aggressively pushed their way through but the event was mostly marked by a calm atmosphere. Children played in the street and passers-by stopped for a chat. Shortly after we left the police turned up again and stood in the street themselves turning drivers away.
For a couple of hours this action showed what Exchange Street should be like – and will be like once the problem of rat-running drivers is solved once and for all.
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