When I was a small child I remember walking with my mum in my local town holding her hand, we walked on the pavement and I felt perfectly safe, I couldn’t see very well but knew there was a road to one side and a step onto it would be dangerous for me. I knew what traffic lights were and was taught the green cross code, it was simple. There was a distinction between pavement and road, but now this is no more.
Over the years I’ve seen a large decline in safety for myself and other pedestrians. It first started in the 90’s with the predestinization of cities which although was brilliant, motorists and retailers didn’t like it, hence the arrival of retail parks, However predestrinized streets brought other problems, speeding bicycles ; swerving pushchairs. Some mobility scooter users were going much faster than foot speed would come at you from all directions. At certain times of the day (not always knowing what times) some vehicles would be allowed through, and you wouldn’t know a vehicle was there until it was right on top of you from the front or behind. A-boards and street furniture would appear in random spots, some of it small enough for me to walk into many a time. When it got completely mad I considered getting a guide dog, that’s how bad it got in one town locally, a cane doesn’t work when people/things are speeding towards you.
In this century the idea of shared spaces/surface where anybody and anything can travel on the same space has made things worse, with buses now added to the melee of wheels, with their virtually silent engines it’s easy to miss a bus turning a corner and nearly being crushed by it or a van reversing unexpectedly; children running about; adults not looking where they are going as their eyes are glued to their mobiles. Oh yes and the steps that appear from nowhere that I went falling down near our new bus station. That’s just the streets in city centres.
In my own area where I live many things are taking up space on these supposed footpaths, numerous bins; large skips; leaves not been cleared up for months which can cover up vital markings; cycle paths which you have to step on to avoid the rest of the clutter; runners not always clearly visable; plenty of pavement parking by motorists who can’t be bothered to walk. When pavements get resurfaced they don’t feel flat anymore either, many feel steeper or uneven underfoot possibly due to civil engineers can’t put their various pipes and cables deep enough underground. Some pavements are cracked due to trees roots growing from underneath, even overhanging trees or bushes can appear unexpectedly or from the side where you can get scratched. It’s concerning that pavements can get so cluttered finding space to walk on safely is a navigational nightmare. Even taking a regular route to my GPs last year ended with me taking a tumble.
But here’s what topped it off for me. I think it was a couple of weeks ago I heard a loud noise outside my window and discovered later there were some roadworks outside my home, I got a letter from the council a few days later to say there were road works being carried out. It stated the times when the roads would be disrupted but didn’t give dates of start and finish of the said works. But thankfully does give a feedback form which I fully intend to fill out here’s why.
Just this week I was heading out when it was very windy to catch bus I went back inside as it was too windy for me to breathe normally, I also had to make a cancellation. I tried again later as I needed to get some shopping it had dropped off a bit so I was able to manage a walk to the shop, however when I got to the bus stop I noticed a large sign bus stop closed. I checked later and nothing reported that my bus stops were closed, so if I’d managed to get past the wind I would not have been able to catch a bus no warning issued . No one has been able to pick me up during the day because of the road closure either so no access to transport whatsoever. Whilst the roadworks continue it’s pretty isolating and no there’s no guarantee this will not happen again. How about the perilous bit, well one day on the pavement I saw a big truck parked right in the middle of the pavement, dangerous for someone totally blind, I have enough sight to avoid it but if it had been dark it might have been a different story. Another truck was parked on the side of the pavement I needed to cross too. I didn’t know why that area seemed blocked by this truck, I discovered later why when I almost walked into a pink barrier. Whilst this work continues I’m potentially housebound for a large part of the day, I’m sure some of the other disabled and elderly folk around here will be too.
Now I’m increasingly concerned along with I’m sure many of my other visually impaired friends what unsuspecting dangers lie ahead once our feet head out the door and will it come to the point like a large percentage of visually impaired people that it’s just too dangerous and stressful to risk life and limb on this particular obstacle course of our streets which has no health and safety regulation attached to protect us.