Road work blues

If, like me, you recall a fanfare at Christmas time about the road works on Market Street being completed, you may also have found out how much of a false dawn that was.

Heading back from a downtown meeting last month I wrongly decided to swing into Market Street, assured that - as I had read in December - the works were all over.

How wrong I was as I sat in one lane of traffic with the centre coned off for what - if my eyes did not deceive me - looked suspiciously like the major reconstruction that we had been told was finished before Christmas.

Now we have Wellington Road and Fonthill Road closed for road works.

The result of these closures and bottlenecks has had quite a serious 'knock on' effect all around town and it serves as a reminder of how susceptible Aberdeen's traffic is to even the most minor glitches.

No question that the AWPR will help, by diverting traffic from north and south away from city streets.

But, while I am very much in favour of pedestrian precincts, it does make me concerned about the pedestrianisation of Union Street from Bridge Street to Market Street.

Union Street was an incredibly bold vision when it was proposed in the dying days of the 18th Century. It is, for much of its length, a viaduct carried on granite arches up to 30 feet from the ground. Without it, foot and horse-drawn traffic heading from the east to the new town in the west, had to go down one side of the Denburn Valley and up the other side.

It is for that very reason that Union Street is the only substantial east-west route in our city centre.

A recent trip down town left me very concerned for the state of our city. It seemed that its commercial heart was looking even more down-at-heel than usual. The only busy shop appeared to be Poundstretcher!

I know, as a family, we have largely stopped going into Aberdeen for shopping - driven away by the frustrations of driving into the city.
• We find ourselves penned into one lane, while half the roadway goes to waste waiting for the occasional bus or taxi. (That can't be good use of scarce resources!)
• We find ourselves unnecessarily delayed by traffic lights that take an age to respond to traffic flows.
• Then when we get into town, we find there is no parking available and end up causing more congestion by travelling round-and-round in the vain hope there might be a space.

Aberdeen's loss is Inverurie, Banchory or - more likely - the internet's gain.

And, if others are doing likewise (as seems likely), that is very bad news for Aberdeen's economy.

Pedestrianise Union Street by all means, but make sure that it is possible for us to get there by our chosen means of transport, quickly and conveniently... and ensure there is convenient car parking at the end of our journey.

Otherwise, we will have failed to realise the benefits bequeathed to us by our 18th Century forebears who literally laid the foundations for a vibrant city.
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