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Alien Invaders

Jan 2013

Our pavements, footways and paved open areas are precious.  They belong to pedestrians, whether residents or visitors. We may be engaged in shopping, on a walking journey, or just strolling around and enjoying the surroundings.  The ability to walk freely around our attractive town is an ancient right. These places are our space, our territory.  Yet they are increasingly under threat of invasion and occupation by others, more so than in most other towns.   

We must show constant vigilance to avoid invaders.  Who are they?  These aliens?

Undoubtedly the most threatening and aggressive is the 4-wheeled invader, which varies from small cars to articulated lorries.  Sometimes it seems that these vehicle invaders occupy our territory just as a show of power and to allow others of their ilk to travel past even faster. The battered and sunken curb stones offer no deterrent to crossing the frontier and entering our territory.  Bollards, which once were iron and our allies, are often now plastic and no longer give us protection. Are they already in league with the invaders, as they move half a metre onto the pavements (in concert with motley other posts) - evidently to give the invaders clear space to pass on to their next mission?   They must be under orders from High Command in Kingston.

Recent invaders are the sinister shiny black tanks, on spindly legs, which have started what seems to be a permanent occupation of the North Street pavement; we fear that there will be a further wave of these invaders.  They come under the camouflage of greenery, but no one should be fooled – these are hostile aliens, intent on pushing out the trees that are our allies.

Then there are the A-boards – the infantry of the invaders. They make daily raids to secure their territory and promote the expansionist aims of their commanders.  They often join to create a blockade of parts of our territory.  Their threat is greatest in Chapel Street – they represent the minefield laid by the hostile forces; their position is often varied to confuse the defenders.  Not only do they occupy our space, but they sometimes injure pedestrians, particularly the weaker ones. 

Even more aggressive are the temporary road works signs we frequently find blocking our progress; they are sited off the highway to ensure that the rapid movement of the 4-wheel invaders is never compromised.  And the “lollipop” signs that occasionally occupy parts of the High Street are yet another manifestation of this force.

A more subtle operation by our foes is the “temporary" annexation of our areas by the builders’ enclosure, and sometimes the permanent annexation by commercial operations.  Rapid withdrawal is always promised but rarely happens.

Our historic cobbled High Street is our most precious territory. Sadly pedestrians are subjected to a curfew on the space for all but a few hours a day, thereby allowing unrestricted occupation and high speed movement by any type of vehicular intruder.  This does not happen in other towns and  suggests the battle is being lost.

Even our basic sovereignty of the territory is under threat, as our Public Ownership is being replaced by weak legal agreements that allow us to use the space that we should own. Road crossings provide our corridors to neighbouring pedestrian areas, but they are all controlled by the invaders.  We do not have a single pedestrian priority crossing point in Guildford.

Guildford has the potential to be atruly welcoming town for pedestrians, particularly visitors who come without their cars.   Yet it is the most hostile town for pedestrians that I know. You need to be vigilant always, to be aware of a possible encounter with a pavement invader. It does not provide the good shopping experience we expect nowadays.  Even Woking has acquired two pedestrian priority crossings, and a white boot on the OS map signifying that it is a worthwhile place for walkers to visit. And our competitor - Kingston?  Like all London Boroughs, it provides a much more peaceful environment for pedestrians – for example parking on pavements is illegal there and there is a real attempt to put walking at the top of the transport hierarchy.

Surely it is time for us pedestrians to reclaim our territory, to finally repel the invaders, and make our town a place that we, and our visitors, can move around in with pleasure and without fear.  We should aim to join the 92 other towns that have achieved the Walkers are Welcome status. This must be a key part of our  Vision..

Posted by: Bob Bromham