Letters / Walking is a lost art

My university days and early career found me in central and east London. The Strand and Camberwell/Brixton. I then moved to the Black Country (West Bromwich), Birmingham, and the industrial West Midlands (Walsall).

In all these densely populated and industrialised areas I previously lived and worked in, I was never more than a two-minute walk from a tree-lined park, riverbank, or reclaimed waterway.

There I could sit down with a packed lunch/picnic and a bottle of wine or beer and contemplate nature or whatever. In Lerwick, for a similar meal, the best one would find would be a car park or barren, treeless featureless piece of parkland. The beer/wine would have me arrested.

One’s view inside the town would perhaps be of one, in parts, the ugliest seaside town in the UK. It is unfortunate, but much of Lerwick has been planned and developed only for the car. The result is a soulless unattractive place.


There are endless parking bays, concrete, and tarmac, usually only a dull grey and brown vista. Vandalism is rife. Alcohol on the street is illegal and banned due to public disorder. Public toilets are locked up at night so peeing up the nearest wall is the usual option. Youngsters have nowhere to go but are forced to loiter on street corners. Many shops struggling or out of business.

Much of the population is so dependent on their cars that walking is a lost art. The recent title, “fat capital” of the UK, has perhaps sadly and indolently been well earned. The central seafront is one vast car park, and nearly the whole area of Clickimin loch is circled with car parks, concrete, glass, and yet more tarmac.

The loch water is so polluted and highly poisonous for most of the year (Aflatoxins and blue-green algae). Quite lethal to most wildlife and will kill a dog or person within a few hours of ingestion.


The simple answer is limiting the number of cars in the town – plant thousands of trees. Remove endless car parking bays for recreation and create pleasant places for public enjoyment – for example, covered arcades and waterside restaurants/pubs with beer gardens and outside restaurant areas.

Wildlife and formal gardens created, lovely places to be. Pedestrianise most shopping areas with secure out-of-town parking. Build new cycle lanes and car-free walkways.

Places where children can safely play. A car exclusion zone established. A decent continuous bus service from out-of-town parking areas could be freely provided. The town supermarkets should be within the exclusion area. That way, town centre shops could compete equally with the supermarkets.

The residents of Lerwick, taxis and disabled drivers would have limited exemptions. ‘Congestion charging’ policy should be implemented. All unnecessary traffic excluded from the town.


I realise the petrolheads and those who must compensate for psychosexual inadequacies with their cars’ engine size will be outraged.

This will have to happen if one is to be realistic about climate change. Many forward-looking cities and towns across the UK and Europe have already adopted such policies.

Ian Tinkler

Written in response to this letter regarding car usage in Lerwick.



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