City’s underpasses: Have they had their day?

The Wincheap underpass is covered in graffiti

This sounds like one of those limited information riddles:

What are covered in graffiti, dark and dingy, often have a foetid stench, contain puddles of piss and puke, can make people feel vulnerable and yet are used by thousands in Canterbury every day?

The answer, in case you chanced upon this without reading the headline, is our city’s underpasses.

This week the issue of their cleanliness was raised by Canterbury Society chairman Jan Pahl.

Her particular concern is the amount of graffiti in them and apparent lack of resolve to remove it.

Meanwhile, only last week Canterbury Journal contributor Peter Styles brought us news that in London and Birmingham underpasses are disappearing, being filled in and replaced with traffic lights and signals for all road users.

Getting rid of the underpasses is genuinely worth thinking about in Canterbury – and for all sorts of reasons, not the least the description of the underpasses at the top of the page.

But, most importantly, we live in an age when we are seriously reconsidering both our relationship with our urban surroundings and the way we move around.

There’s something so postwar and gloomily 60s about our underpasses, those little tiles, the cage-like metal railings, the concrete. They come from an age when planners believed that the needs of the vehicle so outweighed those of the pedestrian that the latter was relegated to a dingy tunnel.

As Mr Styles points out, we are no longer thinking like that.

To take this further, we can say that the road is in fact there for everyone: vehicles, bikes, pedestrians – that the needs of none trump any other.

We can, if we want, follow Mr Styles suggestion and install lights and pedestrian crossing to bring people back on to the road. If it means traffic is slowed down, then perhaps that’s the price to pay for the removal of the underpasses and an improved streetscene.

We could ditch the railings while we’re at it. They’re unsightly and herd people around like farmyard animals.

So what do you think? Fill the underpasses in, put something attractive in their place and start sharing the road?

Or leave them be with the urine, the stench and the graffiti…?


  1. Jan Paul’s idea to fill in the underpasses and replace with traffic lights is a good one. It is the same thought that I have expressed on Canterbury Residents group for the wincheap roundabout.
    There is no proper crossing point to get from Aldis to the East Station and this would make crossing the road safe in an instant.
    The underpass is horrendous and much favours a crossing as an alternative.
    It may even make the traffic flow better.

  2. This might be courting controversy but the last time I looked, the graffiti, urine and rubbish in the underpasses hadn’t been beamed down from the planet Zargg but had been generously donated by a small number of sick barbarians, who consider most of Canterbury to be their very own canvas/toilet/dustbin. Catching, naming and shaming these individuals will not only be an appropriate punishment for them but also serve as an effective deterrent to others who may be tempted in this direction.It’ll also make the underpasses (surely the safest way to cross the city ring road) rather more fragrant and nicer for everyone else to use.

  3. Given the amount of traffic it would be idiotic to encourage pedestrians to cross the roads instead of using the underpasses. We need a proper A28/A2 eastern link before any changes can be made


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