Pedestrianisation - is it good for cities and towns?

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Pedestrianisation - is it good for cities and towns?

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There’s a fresh interest in keeping cars out of cities. Is it a good idea?

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Rob Hello, I’m Rob, and welcome to 6 Minute English, where today we’re chatting about a pedestrian topic and six items of related vocabulary.

Neil Hello, I’m Neil. A pedestrian is someone who walks around rather than travelling by car or bus. But in Rob ‘s sentence he used the adjective, and in this context it means dull or uninteresting!

Rob And of course I was making a pun, Neil. Because of course the show is going to be extremely interesting! It’sabout safety on the streets - and whether pedestrianisation is a good thing or not.

Neil Pedestrianisation means changing a street into an area that can only be used by pedestrians.

Rob Well, it sounds like a good idea - no traffic, less noise and air pollution. And no chance of getting knocked down by a car or a bus!

Neil There are plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street, which is one of the busiest shopping streets in London.

Rob That’s right. The Mayor of London wants to tackle - or make an effort to deal with - air pollution in this very busy spot - where the amount of traffic is definitely a problem! In fact, can you tell me, Neil, what’s the average speed of a bus travelling along Oxford Street? Is it: a) 4.6 miles per hour, b) 14.6 miles per hour or c) 46 miles per hour?

Neil And I think it’s 14.6 miles per hour - a) sounds too slow and c) sounds too fast!

Rob OK, we’ll find out the answer later on. The problem is - the traffic doesn’t just disappear. You ban it from one area - and it gets rerouted somewhere else.

Neil Ban means to say officially that something can’t be done. And reroute means to change the direction you ‘re travelling in, in order to reach a particular destination. That’s true, Rob. It must be a big headache for city planners.

Rob Well, let’s listen now to Joe Urvin, Chief Executive of Living Streets. He’s going to talk some more about why traffic is causing problems in our towns and cities.

INSERT Joe Urvin, Chief Executive of Living Streets In 1970 we had 20 million cars in this country. Now we have over 30 million cars in such a short period. So that creates three big problems. One is space - because we’ve still got the same street structures in our towns and cities, causing congestion. It causes pollution, which people are concerned about more and more. And actually, it’s kind of engineering walking out of our lives. So we’re actually not getting enough exercise, which is a cause of a health crisis. Smart cities are looking at pedestrianisation - in Glasgow, in Birmingham, in London for example, Manchester - as a way of not only making their places, cities better and more attractive, actually, building their local economy.

Neil So Neil Urvin identifies three problems - the first is that our city streets have stayed the same while the number of cars on the roads has increased dramatically.

Rob That’s right - and this has led to congestion on our roads. Congestion means too much traffic, making it hard to move.

Neil The second problem is pollution - which we mentioned earlier.

Rob Pollution is damage to the environment caused by releasing waste substances such as carbon dioxide into the air.

Neil And the third problem is that by travelling around on buses or in our cars we aren’t getting enough exercise. And we all know that’s a bad thing! Would pedestrianisation engineer walking back into our lives do you think?

Rob I’m not sure, Neil. It would be great if we could go shopping or walk to work without breathing in fumes or worrying about getting knocked down by a car. But banning all motorised traffic from town centres might make life difficult for people to get around.

Neil Well, I’m not a town planner - and I don’t have the answers. But I would like to know if I got the answer right to the question you asked me earlier!

Rob OK, well I asked you: What’s the average speed of a bus travelling along Oxford Street? Is it… a) 4.6mph, b) 14.6mph or c) 46mph?

Neil And I said 14.6mph.

Rob And that’s not slow enough, Neil, I’m afraid. The answer is actually 4.6mph. And we pedestrians walk at an average speed of 3.1mph apparently!

Neil Good to know. OK - shall we go over the words we learned today, Rob?

Rob Sure - the first one is ‘pedestrian’ - a person who is walking, usually in an area where there’s traffic. ‘Sorry - you can’t ride your bike here. This path is for pedestrians only.’

Neil The adjective - ‘This book is full of very pedestrian ideas. I wouldn’t read it if I were you.’

Rob I’ve crossed it off my list, Neil. Thank you. OK - number two is ‘to tackle’ something, which means to make an effort to deal with a difficult problem. For example, ‘The government isn’t really tackling the problem of air pollution. It needs to do much more.’

Neil Very true. OK, ‘ban’ means to officially say that something can’t be done. ‘The UK government will ban the sale of diesel and petrol cars from 2040.’

Rob And number four is ‘reroute’ which means to change the direction you’re travelling in.

Neil ‘The council has rerouted all buses to avoid the town centre.’

Rob ‘Congestion’ is number five - too much traffic, making it difficult to move.

Neil ‘Road congestion always gets better in the summer when a lot of car drivers are on holiday.’

Rob That’s true, isn’t it? London always seems emptier in July and August.

Neil Except for all the tourists walking around - congesting the streets!

Rob Very funny! And finally, number six is ‘pollution’ - which is damage to the environment caused by releasing waste substances such as carbon dioxide into the air, or plastic into the sea.

Neil ‘You can help reduce air pollution by walking to work every day instead of driving.’

Rob Are you talking to me, Neil? I always walk to work!

Neil I know you do, Rob - you’re an example to us all!

Rob OK, that’s all we have time for today.

Neil But please don’t forget to visit us via our Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages! Goodbye!

Rob Bye bye!

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