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Dear Planners, please provide viable alternatives

I have a meeting at Melksham Police Station this evening (of the Community Area Partnership - not on police business!) - from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Melksham Police Station is about a mile and a half from home - outside the town on the old Semington Road. How can I get there?

I could drive. I've been there before, driving, and they only have very limited public parking. I think I counted six spaces, which for general vistors may sometimes be enough. But where there's an external meeting going on with some fifteen to twenty attendees, is woefully inadequate. I've parked on the roads outside, sharing the kerbside with 40 ton articulated lorries that don't seem to have found anywhere better either when they arrive long distance in Melksham and have to wait for the morning to unload. So - I'm being discouraged from driving. What are my other options?

I could walk. As the crow flies, the distance is reasonable. But following direct roads, I have to start on a fast "A" road without a footpath. There isn't a footpath down the second A road either, but at least there's a public footpath across the fields. They will be marshy at the moment, and it'll be very dark on my way back. The next longer route takes me through the industrial estate and also across a footpath that's potentially 'interesting' at night; the 'safe' route is much longer - virtually into the town centre and back out rather thanaround in an arc.

I could cycle. I don't know what parking's like for cycles at the Police Station, and I don't have a cycle these days ... but I do know that the shortest safe and available route - for me who's not the most practiced cyclist - is going to be via the town centre. That's not as big an issue of extra distance as it would be fo walking.

I could take the bus. Not a direct service, but the 271 / 272 / 273 from our road end, change to the 234 in the town centre and that stops right outside the police station. Ah - a good solution, until you look at the timetable. To be on time at my meeting, I'll have to catch the 17:05 bus, wait 51 minutes in the Market square, and arrive outside the Police Station an hour early. There's an 18:09 bus that will allow me to walk into the meeting about 10 minutes after it has started. On my return, the meeting finishes at 21:00. Bus leaves 21:40, change in the Town Centre; a wait of nearly 2 hours and I'll be at my home stop at 23:50.

I'm all for getting people to walk, cycle, use public transport where they can, and to encourage them to do so by restricting the amount of parking and pricing at at reasonable levels (above "free" but below "profiteering"). But if you are going to take a stick to people and force them out of their cares, you need to provide an adequate carrot alternative. This has clearly not been done in the case of the police station, where using the bus will mean I spend nearly 7 hours attending a 2 hour meeting, and where walking and cycling for those of us lucky enough to be fit enough to do so is dangerous via the practically short routes.





The example above is just one of many I could come up with - and there are lots of us who would reduce our car travel if only we practically could. Of all places, the police station should be easy to access for all, including those who are not mobile in their own right / can't afford their own transport / are ill and cannot drive (or walk or cycle).
(written 2010-03-11)

 
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