Martin Kirby Column; Night Howls, Parking Punctuation and Access All Areas
NIGHT TIME IS THE FRIGHT TIME
Thankfully I don't have to do it very often, but a few times recently I've been in the centre of Gloucester of an evening and I can tell you it's not for the faint-hearted. I mention it because by the time you read this, we should have an elected Police and Crime Commissioner for the county and there was also a 'Nightsafe' meeting earlier in the week, where various bods chat about what can be done to make Gloucester a safer pace to socialise at night.
We are constantly told we shouldn't feel uneasy when walking around the city centre after dark but I reckon anyone who says that has either never been out at night, or had difficulty seeing through their rose-tinted spectacles.
Of course, this is a national problem, not something exclusive to our city and I'm sure Gloucester is no worse – and probably much better – than other places, but to pretend the problem doesn't exist is sheer stupidity. So what exactly is 'the problem'?
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To be honest, it's mostly about perception. While the fear of something happening is often unfounded, that doesn't make the fear any less real and such fears are born out of a lack of visible police presence combined with mind-bogglingly soft punishment for offenders.
I was in the city centre last Saturday and even though it was quite early, between 8 and 9pm, to say I did not enjoy the experience would be an understatement. Let's be clear, I was not attacked or even threatened in any way but the point is; I believed I could have been, so instead of feeling comfortable in what is my 'home town', I felt intimidated and couldn't get away fast enough. If that's how other visitors feel, it's no wonder pubs are closing through lack of trade.
Because it was too early for clubbing, most of the main streets were deserted. But every side-road, alleyway and large shop doorway was filled with youngsters just hanging around, looking for any kind of entertainment they could find. Most of their 'entertainment' seemed to consist of pushing and shoving each other while laughing and swearing through a haze of cigarette smoke and booze. The various shouts of abuse may not have been directed specifically at me, but I wasn't inclined to stop and find out.
The sad thing is that it wasn't so much a case of being frightened as feeling that I'd strayed into their territory and needed to keep a low profile. It's my city, the city I grew up in – yet I felt like I didn't belong. Despite paying our taxes and in many cases, served in the armed forces, people of my generation feel they cannot walk the streets in safety. That really IS frightening.
DON'T DISPLAY IGNORANCE
Apparently, new machines are being installed in the King's Walk and Eastgate Shopping Centre multi-storeys car parks and drivers will now have to pay when they arrive, or else use a 'cashless' service by setting up an account and calling a payment line.
The new system won't make a great deal of difference to me but I just hope any new signs installed will be grammatically correct, unlike the one I photographed in Oxford, the home of the English Dictionary.
'Have you paid and displayed' is a question and therefore should read; 'Have you paid and displayed?' Or am I being old-fashioned?
DRIVES YOU CRAZY
Whatever else happens with the Railway Triangle, I hope the contractor's entrance off Metz Way will not be the only way in and out when the development is finished. The road is practically at a standstill at peak times as it is. Traffic emerging from a Morrisons supermarket, a pub, a restaurant, takeaways and a car showroom on to an already busy Metz Way would be a nightmare.