The Henley Standard‘s ‘turning back the pages’ column on 23 August 2013 reported, in the ‘10 years ago‘ section, the Open Spaces Society‘s story in the 22 August 2003 issue. This bore the headline: ‘Market Place branded a danger to pedestrians’.
The society criticised the highway authority, Oxfordshire County Council, for installing ‘raised tables’, cobbled strips across the road known as Market Place in the town centre. These confused walkers into thinking they were pedestrian crossings where they had a right of way.
The county’s bizarre response was that the double yellow-lines along the kerb next to the cobbled paths across the road would alert people to the fact that they were walking on the road. Of course such lines are to tell drivers not to park here, not to warn pedestrians.
Meanwhile, the 20-mph speed limit was not enforced. The situation was exacerbated by the phasing of the traffic lights, which did not allow time for people to cross safely.
This is the main crossroads in Henley, with Market Place to the west running to the Town Hall, Hart Street to the east leading to the River Thames, Bell Street (north) and Duke Street (south). The minute the lights changed to red on Hart Street, they went green on Duke Street, and the minute they went red on Duke Street, the traffic was turning left from Hart Street into Duke Street.
The society deplored this risk to pedestrians in a town where one should be able to wander peacefully.
Ten years on things have much improved. Duke Street is one way, and the traffic lights allow some (though still insufficient) time for pedestrians to cross Duke Street and Hart Street. The footways in Duke Street and Bell Street have been widened.
However, the ‘raised tables’ still confuse pedestrians and we could do with more enforcement of speed limits and of illegal onstreet parking, particularly by lazy drivers who can’t be bothered to use the car-parks.
Despite being on the Thames Path National Trail, Henley-on-Thames is not yet a walkers’ paradise.