The results of our big survey show a both shocking and predictable snapshot of what delights and angers our readers about Preston. The first in our week-long series takes a look at what you had to say on the city’s roads and public transport...
It is the biggest survey we have ever carried out into what makes Preston proud...and not-so-proud.
And today we launch a week-long series revealing what Post readers truly feel about living in a city which Jeremy Corbyn believes should be a blueprint for others across the UK.
Some of the results are frankly shocking, others perhaps predictable.
But they provide a snapshot of life in Preston in 2017 which ought to make compelling reading for all those who either govern us, or use our votes to put them in power.
We asked how you rated your city for things like healthcare, education, crime, cleanliness, roads, public transport, refuse collection, social care and support for businesses.
The survey also covered shopping, restaurants, pubs, bars, parks, the countryside and sports provision.
We quizzed you about how happy you feel, whether you suffer from loneliness, if you exercise, what you eat and how much you drink.
At times you told us to mind our own business. But most of the time those who responded refused to pull their punches when it came to the issues that matter most to you, the people of Preston.
There was real anger with topics like roads, traffic congestion, public transport and street begging. There was real concern when it came to a lack of spending on hospitals, care for the elderly and policing.
Everything they have done for the last 20 years has generally been a disaster.
Worryingly almost one in three confessed to having taken recreational drugs in the past year and the same number admitted to drinking alcohol several times a week - some every day.
And, just as concerning, more than half revealed they often feel lonely.
Two-thirds of those surveyed were married, just under half were working full-time and 54 per cent said they felt financially comfortable.
Today we begin our five-day series by looking at how Preston’s long-suffering commuters and shoppers view the traffic situation, which regularly brings the city grinding to a complete standstill.
Has the controversial Fishergate redevelopment, with its bus lane cameras, blockaded car parks, Christmas traffic marshals and the absence of traffic lights made things better, or worse?
Is public transport doing its bit to encourage drivers to leave their cars at home - or at least use park and ride - to ease the jams and the frustration?
And can Preston’s road system cope with the volume of traffic it has to endure every day - especially when problems on the motorway network throw even more vehicles onto already choked-up A-roads?
Traffic congestion tops list of issues for people in Preston
Of all the issues vexing Prestonians in 2017, traffic congestion was the biggest pain in the asphalt, according to our survey.
Forget crime and punishment, hospital waiting lists, schools and employment opportunities, the nose-to-tail jams which have become a regular feature of life in the city sparked the most anger.
And Preston’s ‘shared space’ scheme in Fishergate came under withering criticism from a vast number of those questioned.
Only one in five people felt the £3.4m project to make the city’s main shopping street more pedestrian-friendly had been successful in reducing traffic.
More than half of those who responded said they found themselves stuck in traffic every day in and around Preston. Four out of five said they were caught up in jams at least once a week.
Calls to revert to the old- style Fishergate, with its traffic lights and defined pavements, came thick and fast, as did demands for a better public transport system to encourage drivers to leave their cars outside the city centre.
One typical response, from a Fulwood resident was: “The traffic in Preston is awful, with constant traffic jams. Journey times for short distances are far too long.”
Another said: “Poor planning has put Preston at the mercy of the M6. As soon as something happens on the motorway the arterial roads in the city fill with traffic and Preston grinds to a slow crawl at best. And that’s not to mention the regular city centre gridlock.”
Congestion is not something new to Preston, it has blighted the city for years. And our survey sparked criticism of a succession of relief measures which have been tried - and largely failed - to stem the tide of traffic.
Several respondents pointed to “thoughtless” road improvements, with Ringway in particular - a ring road through the city instead of around it - as a prime example of bad planning.
“Who else has a ring road dividing their city?” asked one. “Move the ring road around the town, not through it,” said another.
And a third argued: “Everything they have done for the last 20 years has generally been a disaster. They have extended journey times, caused traffic queues where they didn’t used to exist and made junctions dangerous through poor planning and implementation.”
Jams in the city centre have worsened in recent years, according to many quizzed in our survey. And a good proportion of those lay the blame at the feet of planners who introduced the “shared space” concept to Fishergate in a bid to make it more attractive to shoppers and less so to motorists.
Two years ago the pre-Christmas shopping rush brought chaos to the area, leaving some drivers “imprisoned” in the St George’s and Fishergate shopping centre car parks for hours trying to get out.
Last Christmas the newly-installed bus lane cameras (ticketing vehicles between 11am and 6pm) discouraged enough motorists from using Fishergate and brought a better traffic flow with fewer delays.
The cameras are back on in time for the 2017 festive season, but it is feared fresh problems around the railway station due to a bus replacement service could bring a return to the gridlock, especially at weekends.
One respondent to our survey declared: “Stop the 11-6 diversion. It makes no sense. Creates hold-ups everywhere and the traffic lights are not calibrated properly.”
Another said: “The shared space in Preston centre is a waste of money. It is badly planned and a complete disaster.”
One suggested: “Scrap the shared space and sack whoever came up with such daft ideas.”
And a parent added: “I get so angry. A taxi driver nearly mowed down my daughter whilst we were shopping. She was heavily pregnant. Driving is dependent on a bit of courtesy - something that evades a lot of drivers.”
Don’t miss day two when we look at where you think government and local authority cash should be spent to improve our city.