Barnes traders say Hammersmith Bridge closure is killing off business

I noticed this article on the local Guardian website:

'It's a ghost town': Barnes traders say Hammersmith Bridge closure is killing off business

You can read the whole article here (opens in a new tab)

Now, of course, nobody wants to see local businesses suffer. But I'm not sure how valid some of the points made in the article are.

Gill Sabine, who runs a beauty salon on Church Road, says, "customers want to come in for treatments but do not want to get onto public transport because they do not fancy sitting in unpredictable traffic". This strikes me as odd. Because of the lack of cars, the buses on Castelnau and Rocks Lane have never been more reliable. And, if the bridge were to be opened to cars again, and Ms Sabine's customers decided to drive to the salon, wouldn't they be subject to unpredictable traffic? In fact, wouldn't they be helping to make it worse?

Gerry Summers, who owns a jewellery shop on Barnes High Street, says, "Barnes has become a cul-de-sac... we are all incensed that the Government can't get their act together. The roadworks caused by Cadent Gas and the closure of Hammersmith Bridge has resulted in me losing customers in Fulham, Putney, Chiswick and wider Surrey. There is no point declaring a climate emergency in Richmond when the build up of traffic in neighbouring areas and in Barnes defeats the purpose."

Mr Summers doesn't really make a clear argument, but surely he can see that Barnes High Street is actually pretty busy. And it's hardly going to help the climate emergency if the bridge is reopened to cars, which would surely lead to an increase in the total traffic in the area.

The article also says that Mr Summers believes that "London has an obligation to keep Barnes open because it is an ancient and historical artery of the capital". But, as so often happens with arguments based on history, he has fallen into the trap of arguing to restore the status quo. There's nothing ancient or historical about the dominance of our streets by the motor car.

To be fair, it's a poorly written and unbalanced article, and it panders to the views of those who aren't interested in any kind of progress in the way that people move around London. It's a great shame for Ms Sabine and Mr Summers that their trade has dropped, but the reasons for that are complex, and it is trite to blame it all on the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. In fact, Mr Summers blames roadworks as well.

But businesses need to adapt to survive. If I wanted to buy some jewellery or get a beauty treatment, my journey to either of these shops has actually become easier - as it has for anyone who lives in Barnes. In fact, Barnes High Street and Church Road have never looked more attractive; you can walk round the shops breathing cleaner air and with a reduced chance of being run over. Perhaps local businesses should put their heads together and try to attract the sort of customer that won't go anywhere without their car.

Posted on 26th February 2020

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