The worst road in Britain

In all the rush created by the rail announcements and the Metronet collapse, I have had little time to write for the blog. I had a few days in Somerset, too, supposedly on a cricket tour but as play was washed out, it became a very pleasant rambling holiday with my partner, Deborah.
My interest in any transport story, however, remains undiminished. In Somerset, I was staying in the small medieval market town of Dunster, famous for its Yarn Market and castle, which surely has the worst traffic management system. The town has two distinct parts linked by a narrow road, unwidened since horse and cart days. Indeed, my friend, Graham Lamacraft, who runs the B&B where I stay with his wife Jan, remembers the days of carts carrying wood from Exmoor forests through the town and onto the local port and railway station.
Now, however, the 300 metre section through the centre of the town is controlled by a traffic light system similar to those at road works, to ensure that two buses or lorries do not meet in the middle, thus causing gridlock. However, there is no pavement, nor any road humps, and therefore many car drivers, encouraged by the unsightly double yellow lines, use this section of road to see how quickly they can accelerate up to 40 MPH. Since there is virtually no other way to get from one side of the little town to the other, pedestrians therefore have to cower in doorways as the traffic, which never seems to slow down for them, hares past. I have seen lorries thunder through inches away from hapless tourists seeking to enjoy the town.
Of course, this is not an easy problem for traffic engineers. It is a main road, the A396, to Tiverton and presumably there are regulations about not putting road humps on main roads or even imposing 20MPH limits, though the local traffic engineers could surely apply to have Dunster, a historic town, considered as a special case. The design of the single lane section seems to encourage speeding; in particular, the complete lack of paving means that the car drivers seem to think they have the road to themselves. For me, the traffic management greatly diminishes the beauty of what is a delightful little town.
There are, too, other issues. The delightful Yarn Market is surrounded by parked cars and the pavements, cobbled according to tradition, are terribly difficult to walk on. Dunster is a wonderfully well preserved town and deserves better from its transport planners. It is symptomatic of the way that we have allowed the car to dominate above all. I have been to many similar medieval towns in France and Italy, and there cars are always made to be subservient to the demands of pedestrians. In Britain, we never seem to do this.

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