This is a guest post by A.O. Pillfor
There was shock today as the government announced plans to remove Britain’s pavements as part of its latest round of reforms.
Speaking at his weekly press conference, David Cameron told journalists “I appreciate the sentimental attachment which many people have to pavements, but we have to face up to the facts.
“The world has changed, and at a time when we’re more dependent on our cars than ever, Britain can no longer afford to restrict access to large sections of our public highways as we have in the past. Over the next few weeks contractors for the Highways Agency will begin digging up pavements in towns and cities across the country, replacing them with tarmac which will finally allow cars access to the full width of the road.”
The Commuter’s Alliance expressed strong support for the move. “Frankly, a reform like this is long overdue” said a spokesman for the grassroots [Really? Aren’t we meant to fact-check stuff like this? –Ed.] organisation. “For too long our transport infrastructure has been held back by the dead hand of the pedestrian lobby. It’s high time we had a roads system fit for the 21st century. I mean, who walks anywhere in this day and age? Apart from a few poor people, obviously.”
Many groups expressed anger at what they saw as the betrayal of a promise made by David Cameron before the 2010 general election that “Britain’s pavements are safe in my hands.” Many have claimed that his proposals will only benefit the motoring lobby and construction firms, many of whom have strong financial links to the Tory party. Representatives of several such firms were recently reported to have been wined and dined at Chequers, but senior Conservatives have strongly denied any link between this and the government’s plans.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said he believed the proposals to be “ill-thought-out and reckless.”
“This government is getting rid of too many pavements, too fast,” he told assembled reporters on a pavement near his home. “We in the Labour Party have always made it very clear what we’d do about this issue if we were in power.
“We haven’t, you say? Oh.”
Miliband was in turn attacked by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, however, who claimed the Leader of the Opposition was “in the pocket of organised pedestrianism”.
“Just as the Conservatives have their rich motorist backers, Labour is totally under the thumb of the pedestrian movement. The Liberal Democrats on the other hand have no need of roads, as our support evaporated years ago. We are the only true one-nation party in Britain.”
Opponents of the plan have expressed concern that pedestrians’ lives could be endangered if it goes ahead. One road safety charity described the proposals as “utter madness”, and argued that they were likely to cause road deaths to rise, a claim dismissed by the Department for Transport.
“I can assure you that we’ve carried out a thorough assessment of the risks involved in implementing this reform, and we’re confident that this move will safeguard the future of Britain’s roads for generations to come,” said a DfT press officer, speaking exclusively to The Third Estate.
“There’s simply no reason to think that allowing two-tonne lumps of metal to drive at 30 miles an hour with no barrier between them and squishy fragile pedestrians could possibly be dangerous. Claiming otherwise is absurd scaremongering.
“What’s that? Will we be releasing our risk assessment to the public? Well that depen – ooh look, a squirrel!”
The presence or absence of the squirrel could not be verified at time of going to press.