The Anonymous Widower

Pedestrian Unfriendly Plymouth

If you like walking and you have to go to Plymouth for some reason, then don’t think that walking in the city will be easy. Good walking cities have three things in common; fairly flat terrain, lots of signs, well-thought out maps and if those fail a well signposted and logical public transport system. Obviously, I would say London has these, but then I know the place like the back of my hand and I know many of the short-cut bus routes.  But then except for the terrain, Liverpool scores well, as does Leeds, Sheffield, Milan, Valencia, Berlin and even Naples.

For a start, the hotel porter couldn’t find me a map and when I started my morning constitutional to get a newspaper on Saturday, I only had a vague idea of the city’s layout in my memory. There were signs however, so I thought I might find my way to the Hoe.  But try as I might, I could not find any maps.  Not even on the bus shelters.  I know that is rather a hobby-horse of mine, but every bus shelter should have a local map.  Preferably, there should also be a spider bus map like London and some other cities.  I can’t remember a time, when I went to a tube station and there wasn’t a local map of the area, so they must have been there well over fifty years.  Now most London bus shelters have them and it makes travel around the city so easily. Especially if like London each stop is announced on the bus or train!  All I tell my visitors is to take an xxx bus to a particular named stop and text me, when the bus passes another, so I can meet them when they arrive.

I did get to the Hoe and what a disappointment!

Plymouth Hoe

Information was bad and it was just vast expanse of asphalt, which gave the impression it was used as a car-park in busy times.

Wikipedia says this of the Hoe.

For forty years, there has been controversy about development on the edges of the Hoe green space. The erection of two discount hotel chain box buildings, at the southern end of Armada Way and the other at the Sound end of Leigham Street, contrast with their Victorian surroundings. The former Grand Hotel is being converted into luxury flats, and the long derelict yacht club site has now been filled by a modern block of flats. The Plymouth Dome, a turret and domed building, built into a small old quarry site above Tinside as an historical theme tourist attraction, failed to attract enough tourists or locals and closed in 2006. As of 2008, it may be demolished.

I just walked along it for a bit to admire the view and then walked back into the city.

I know it was only six in the morning, but I’m a bad sleeper away from my own bed, so very often I’ve found myself walking around deserted city centres. Usually, I’ll buy a paper and then perhaps find somewhere to sit and read it. But Plymouth was as dead as the proverbial dodo. Most city and town centres have a paper shop or a Tesco Express or a Sainsbury Local, where I can do the first and a cafe to do the second.  I couldn’t find anywhere open to buy a paper, so I just walked in a wide circle, back to the hotel. I suppose if you live in the centre of Plymouth and need something urgently like nappies or a ready meal early in the morning, you have to get the car out and drive to the larger food stores on the outskirts. But then Plymouth is a city designed totally around the car and pedestrians are sad losers, who aren’t welcome. Look at this barrier for a start.

Anti-Pedestrian Barrier, Plymouth

Any sensible city would protect pedestrians, by building crossings along a main shopping street and imposing a low speed limit.  But Plymouth just make you walk a few hundred metres in a direction you don’t want to. And then look at this light controlled crossing.

Unphased Pedestrian Lights, Plymouth

You have to wait for one set of green lights and then cross to the middle, then wait again. Locally in London, lights are often timed so that if you’re walk naturally, you can do the double crossing with ease.  I checked too in Bristol and there they phased the lights more for pedestrians.

Cities need to attract visitors to bring money in.  People may arrive in cars, but then they will become pedestrians.  So it is very easy to hack your visitors off.  Plymouth does this in spades.

One point they also miss, is that say you arrived in a Plymouth car park and walked to the Hoe, would the signage get you back to where you parked your car.  I doubt it!

These visitors will never come back and will tell their friends why.

August 7, 2011 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | ,


  1. In your knocking of this City there is a plus, you never mentioned your diet, they obviously have coeliacs !!! Good old Plymouth.

    Comment by Marion | August 9, 2011 | Reply

    • I only ate one eal in Plymouth and that was at my friend’s house over the Tamar. She is Chinese and nice it was too.

      I wasn’t actually knocking Plymouth, but how they treat visitors without cars. And judging by the numbers of speed cameras, those who do. They should send their city centre managers to Bristol for reeducation.

      Comment by AnonW | August 9, 2011 | Reply

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