Who owns the Road?

If you didn’t already know I live in a place called Portsmouth in the UK. As of this year, Portsmouth is the worst place in the UK, outside of London, for cycling injuries. It was also pretty shite for pedestrians too. The Pompey Bug website states:

“On Portsmouth’s roads, over the last 5 years, 157 cyclists have been killed or severely injured. When you include pedestrian road casualties, 318 vulnerable road users (VRU) were killed or severely injured, with a total 1,408 casualties. And 316 of these were children under 16 – making up nearly a quarter of VRU casualties in Portsmouth”. (Source)

Portsmouth is also an awful place for drivers. You have an overpopulated city with old Victorian routes that are not fit for purpose. Much needed new housing is squeezed in to any old space meaning there is a high demand for parking spaces. Parking permits are a source of almost constant contention. The Park and Ride scheme is not fully fledged and the routes into and out of the city are an utter nightmares to crawl through in a car.

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In summation it’s a fucking mess; and a dangerous one at that.

But my question is this – who owns the road? Who should get priority over others. The drivers get frustrated at the cyclists for cutting through traffic (because of course they are all the same). The pedestrians swear at the driver who doesn’t allow them to cross the road (because of course – all drivers are the same). Likewise the cyclist feels like the most vulnerable of them all – carelessly opened car doors, moving vehicles and suicidal pedestrians all conspiring to take them out.

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Like a politicians dream many blame each other rather than focusing on the real problems of poor infrastructure. We all, rightly, feel entitled to use the transport system in whichever way we see fit but there are many who feel that they have a greater right to it than others.

I drive, cycle and walk across this chaotic city. In each of these pursuits I will find myself frustrated by the actions of others who seem to feel that they alone have the right to enjoy the road more than anyone else. But we all own the road. We pay for it through our taxes and it does not matter how you use it though your safe, legal and efficient use of it should be the priority.

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We all own the road, and the Department of Transport has the civic duty to improve it. If the issues really upset you then get involved and try and improve things – there are loads of volunteer groups to chose from. In the mean time, while the roads in Portsmouth are still an utter mess, it is important to let all those who use it feel safe and sound. Take more time, observe more and lets get those shocking statistics down a bit yeah?

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