Devil’s Advocate: Should Market Street Be Pedestrianised?

Max Waller and Laurent Belanger argue for and against pedestrianising Market Street.


Yes – Max Waller

Market Street should be pedestrianised. It would raise the footfall in the shops along the street, allow for a market to return to the centre, and improve the general environment of the street, not to mention make it quieter for residents.

Market Street is clearly the main shopping street in St Andrews. Pedestrianising it will make it easier for people to get between shops and it will also mean that more people will want to walk around the area. An increase in footfall on the street would lead to an increase in footfall in the shops surrounding it, which would be good for local businesses. While it is true it would be harder for deliveries, the pedestrianised zone could be arranged in such a way so as to allow for delivery vehicles to still be allowed to park near shops.

There would be relatively few of these, compared to having cars drive down it, and they are required for local businesses to function so this would obviously have to be sorted out, but it would not be diffi cult to do so. Market Street is not the main road through St Andrews, that is North Street, so redirecting the relatively minor amount of traffic that way will do very little harm.

Most importantly, Market Street deserves a market. While there are currently markets held in the car park on the edge of town, in the square next to Holy Trinity Church, which is already pedestrianised, and next to Madras College, having one in the centre of town would be excellent. Not least because if people were coming to the market in the centre of town they might go in for a coffee somewhere nearby.

There would also be more people walking past market stalls, and so more chances for people to go and buy things than there is in the various locations around town where there currently are markets. It would also enhance the town centre, rather than having a rather fancy water fountain that doesn’t even seem to work, and which only ever seems to be used by hooligans as a landmark for hand-break turns, there would be a market instead, which would be in character with the nature of the town and, of course, restore to Market Street its original purpose.

As part of the pedestrianising, the street would also be made more aesthetically pleasing. Rather than having large numbers of commercial rubbish bins on it, it would have seats and trees and be a generally more appealing place.

A better environment would encourage tourists to linger, instead of hurrying down, en route to the cathedral or the golf course. There would be more space outside of cafes and pubs allowing people, on the very rare occasions where the weather in St Andrews actually warrants sitt ing outside, to do just that. All of these things can only be achieved by pedestrianising the street. On a more a practical point, Market Street doesn’t lead anywhere that cannot be accessed from North or South Street.

At the end of the street, you turn up Union Street on to North Street. If this was where you intended to go in the first place, you could just drive down North Street instead.

The same can be said for South Street. So it would be very easy and relatively unproblematic to reroute the traffic around Market Street in order to pedestrianise it.

Pedestrianising Market Street would also make it safer. If the entire street was not open to cars it would mean that it would be easier to walk between the Union, The Vic, and Dervish. This would surely improve the quality of a night out for students, and make it safer. If you have had a few too many Pablos, cars are not something you want to think about, and their lack of presence would only make a night out more enjoyable. You would be able to get from Union to the cab rank on Bell Street without having to cross a busy road. That is something we should all support.

So pedestrianising would make the town safer, and would also make nights out safer as well. Finally, the street would be a better place for residents. Sure, it would be harder to find a car parking space and might put some more pressure on the other places to park around town, but the increased quiet that would come from there being no cars on the street outside would surely make this worth it. At the heart of the St Andrews conservation area, a pedestrianised Market Street would only serve to enhance the town, making life better for its residents, and those who are involved with the surrounding business. So I think it’s clear, Market Street should be pedestrianised. Fife Council should go ahead with their proposal.

No – Laurent Bélanger

One can imagine, with some clarity, the strongest arguments for pedestrianising Market Street. Most of them will revolve, no doubt, around improving the town’s atmosphere, making it safer for carelessly distracted students, etc.

I personally do sympathise with some of these arguments. St Andrews’ greatest value is, decidedly, historical. The town’s establishment dates back to the early 12th century, and it has existed more or less in its current configuration since not long after. Its age is complemented by a rich history as one of the most important European pilgrimage centres and a key site in the Scottish Reformation. This history, somehow, is imbued into every pavement, every street corner, and every smooth-stoned façade. The town breathes history, and this is, by all means, an enchanting quality.

It is difficult to avoid considering any new addition to St Andrews in the context of this historical charm. My first reaction, for instance, to the constant discussion surrounding the introduction of McDonald’s to the town is always to argue that it will, by one means or another, alter the St Andrean atmosphere for the worse.

This tendency, this instinct, works both ways: my first thought at the mention of the pedestrianisation of Market Street was that it would render the town all the more quaint and picturesque. It would lend the town’s centre a calmer quality — it is so easy to picture, especially in the summer season: people idly strolling along, pausing, momentarily, to peer into the shops before continuing on, ice cream in hand, taking in the sun.

This, indeed, is a delightful picture, and one is easily lost in such fascinations of the mind — admittedly, I often am myself. There are, however, some practical considerations tied to the question of pedestrianising Market Street.

First, it would deal a considerable blow to the flow of traffic in St Andrews. Market Street is a very busy street, and relieves, vehicular traffic in the smaller streets. The thought of dozens of cars inching forward through the rest of the town’s exceedingly narrow lanes is indeed an absurd one from the driver’s point of view.

But the inconvenience to residents would be far greater: the increased pressure on smaller streets would completely spoil the quiet, idyllic ambience of the town’s outskirts, and would constitute a considerable nuisance to locals — to whom, I’m sure you’ll agree, we students constitute enough of a nuisance already.

Second, the pedestrianising of Market Street would eliminate the easy access that delivery trucks have to businesses, especially those with a constant flow of goods (think Tesco, Starbucks, etc). Refuse collection, of course, would be similarly impaired.

While these practical considerations pose a significant challenge to the pedestrianising of Market Street, I think they can be dismissed, at least to a certain extent, as first-world problems: “my god, how could we expect a delivery person to push a produce-carrying cart fifty metres instead of ten?!” etc.

I would like to return, instead, to the issue of atmosphere. I have admitted that my first reaction is to think that the pedestrianisation of Market Street would do much for the ambience of the town: it would allow us to appreciate St Andrews’ historical essence without the distracting interruptions of cars, trucks, motorcycles, and the like.

Some further consideration, however, leads us to the conclusion that, in fact, the pedestrianisation of Market Street would do litt le to eliminate these distractions. Perhaps the town’s most impressive historical site, the Cathedral, would nevertheless remain constantly circled by vehicles — especially those most exasperating: the two-dozen-strong Sunday motorcycle “parade”.

Perhaps more importantly, I believe that the pedestrianisation of Market Street would, in fact, do damage to the town’s atmosphere. While St Andrews’ greatest value is histori- cal, I think it is important to recognise that the town has evolved.

In my piece for this year’s Freshers’ Magazine I wrote that St Andrews is unique not only for its wondrous landmarks, but for its flurry of activity, its buzz. An integral part of this buzz is our doings as students — think balls, dinners, galas, sporting events — but another is the town’s bustle.

The beautiful picture of townspeople and visitors intermingling along a pedestrianised Market Street on a sunny day is, for the most part, a fantasy. For most of the year, such an image is inconceivable, and while pedestrianising Market would certainly render the town less noisy, it would, I think, kill the bustle that is integral to keeping this town alive.


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