Frodsham Street in Chester may have undergone a complete transformation in recent months but it has been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from people who think the combination of buses and pedestrians is an accident waiting to happen.
Last week, we reported how traders felt business was getting back to normal on the city centre street which closed in June last year and didn’t reopen until last month.
The work on Frodsham Street was part of Cheshire West and Chester Council’s £13.5m bus interchange project and was intended to transform the road into a new attractive gateway into the city.
But when we asked Chronicle readers on Facebook to let us know what they thought of the new look street, the comments were almost universally negative with many of them attacking the decision to mix pedestrians and traffic.
Emma Blain kicked things off saying: “Everyone I’ve spoken too says how dangerous it is because the new surface makes you think it’s a pedestrianised street with no traffic. It’s so dangerous, I don’t know what the council were thinking!”
Gemma Bennett Bailey didn’t hold back: “Waste of money. I did think it looked half decent then how dumb it looks as buses, taxis and access only cars are driving down what looks like a pedestrian road in the city centre. Makes no sense!”
Sue Deeny declared the road ‘very dangerous’. She said: “I work on Frodsham Street and see near misses daily. It won’t be long before there is a serious accident.”
Denise Foster was equally blunt: “It’s a death trap. People wandering down the road thinking it is pedestrianised turning round to find a bus behind them. Seating areas where children are playing and not expecting traffic. Whoever designed this should hang their head in shame! That money could have been put to far better use.”
Simon Owen gave a personal account of a near miss: “Got the bus into the city centre Saturday afternoon. As we drove along Frodsham Street a lady walked straight out in front of the bus. Nearly got knocked over. It’s only a matter of time.”
There was just a hint of sarcasm to Jean Skinner’s comment: “Maybe they will put seats and “pedestrianise” and put picnic tables on the A55 or the M53 next!”
As well as the safety concerns, a number of readers felt the street was already starting to look grubby less than a month after reopening.
Su Johnstone said: “Love the shops, like the seating, hate the road. Better when no buses were going through. It now looks really dirty and seems like a lot of wasted money. They should have kept it pedestrians and emergency vehicles only. It would have been an asset instead of an accident waiting to happen.”
Margaret Turnbull pointed out: “The surface is already filthy with tyre marks. I like the idea of the seats but not when buses are passing by cos they stink of fumes.”
Yvonne Jenkins added: “The yellow brick road already has black tyre marks all over it. It will only get worse over the years.”
Rosemary Dodd wasn’t angry, just disappointed: “I have been away from Chester and visited last week. I was extremely disappointed with Frodsham Street. I was expecting something better. It looks cheap, not really an improvement and it probably cost the earth! I don’t like the road surface it looks odd, it doesn’t fit in. I think Chester needs to up their game and look at other cities like York. In a few years time Frodsham Street will need re-doing. I think it’s really tacky.”
Meanwhile, Carol Dodd had a more general point to make about the city centre: “Why don’t they bring back all traffic going through Chester again because none of it is pedestrianised because of deliveries and anything else you care to mention. Don’t get me started on Frodsham Street.”
Steve Thomas was all in favour of direct action: “Act now, ban all vehicles. Maybe we should hold a demonstration and stop vehicle access - get the TV cameras to record it.”
And Nicola Banks pointed out it was particularly confusing for children: “I always have my child by my side but she was totally confused when I said move from the road. Her response was, what road? No kerb clearly indicates it’s all a big path to children. Yes I’ve educated her but it’s ridiculously confusing when children are taught not to step off the kerb before looking both ways.”
But Gwyneth Cooper pointed out this was something Chester has already coped with successfully elsewhere: “Surely if people can cope with pedestrians and traffic between Werburgh Street and the Eastgate they can cope with traffic in Frodsham Street. Unless a street is totally pedestrianised you should always be aware of cars etc.”
A rare positive note was struck by David Kirwan who said: “Can’t wait to see it, I have not been to Chester for a while. Sounds as if revamping the old street into a welcoming shared space for pedestrians, vehicles and cyclists is an excellent idea and a much safer space without a kerb, for the less able amongst us. Hopefully this idea will be rolled out to all the streets in the city centre.”
Cheshire West and Chester Council says Frodsham Street has been transformed into a ‘shared space’ where priority is shared between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
Inspired by Chester’s architecture, professional artist Katayoun Dowlatshahi has designed a series of unique bollards.
When the new Chester Bus Interchange opens in June, the remaining bus services will return and CWaC says Frodsham Street will ‘become an even more important gateway to the city’.
Along with CH1ChesterBID – the city’s Business Improvement District – a number of businesses on Frodsham Street recently attended a drop-in session to share their thoughts on the development so far and find out more about the work still to be done on the bus interchange from Cheshire West and Chester Council.
“We’ve worked hard over the past nine months on behalf of our member businesses to improve communication from the developers and do everything in our power to speed up the work,” said Nick White, city centre manager at CH1ChesterBID.
“We were really pleased when the street re-opened back in April and it’s fantastic to hear that many businesses are now beginning to see an upturn in customer numbers. Once the bus interchange is complete, Frodsham Street will become an even busier gateway into the city centre and we’re hopeful that increase in visitor footfall will boost the bottom line of our members in that part of the city.”