Pavements Are For People - Barry Hill

For me, the most infuriating and inconsiderate thing is cars, vans and wagon’s parked on pavements.  Ok, injustice, mindless violence, burglary and the Jerome Vine show are up there with things that infuriate me, but I think you get the idea.


I do enjoy it when I am told that one has got a yellow sticker on it that indicates a £60 spot fine for illegal parking.  Yeah, I know this sounds mean spirited of me.  They need to get to the cash machine, post box, take away or whatever.  The road is busy but the pavement isn’t.  So, bump bump and they’re half way across the pavement with the magic hazard lights telling everyone that they won’t be a minute.  Well, everyone with some useful sight to see that damned car with its magic flashing beacons that is.  What harm are they doing?


Why do I take such glee out of these parking fines?  Well, there are several reasons that, by the time I’ve explained, I think you’ll be on my side.


As a blind white cane user, I tend to follow the kerb edge because the A-boards, over-spilling shop displays, over-hanging trees and bushes, gates, grass borders and the like on the side opposite the kerb is like some sort of pergatory.  I might as well be plagued by pixies with sharp sticks.  For the most, the kerb has few obsticles… until someone parks on the pavement.  The first I know of a vehicle on the pavement is that I hit it, either with my cane or with a knee.  Boy am I tempted to hit the thing again but much harder the second time, after all, I am carrying a purpose built big stick.  I do know of blind people who do lash out, and I’m not sure if the insurance companies would pay out for a car damaged whilst parked on a pavement.  I’ve even hit my head on wing mirrors of wagons.  I’m not tempted to do that a second time. 



My friends know only too well my angst at cars parked on pavements.  One evening whilst out with a group of my mates, they told me about a car parked fully on the pavement just where we were going, and there were two people sat in it!  Having wound me up and pointed me in the right direction like a clockwork toy, they let me go with cane a swinging.  I soon found the offending car and gave three smart raps on the side as I went past.  My mates caught up with me and were laughing out of proportion to what I had done.  It was a police car with two coppers sat in it.  The week after, they were there again but drove off when they noticed me coming for them again.


Even with my guide dog I have problems.  He’s trained to take me into the road around the obstacle if he feels that he cannot get passed without scratching the car.  I kid you not, it is not my judgment, it’s the dogs.  So, in actual fact, I have to trust my dog, who has the intelligence of a bright two year old child, to judge that the gap between the idiots car and the wall is too small for both of us to get past, then for him to take me into the traffic that the car owner believes is too risky for him to park fully on the road.  It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the danger of a blind person in the road, but it does seem to take more imagination than these drivers have.


It’s easy enough for a sighted person to check if there is traffic coming and to nip around the car or wagon, but my guide dog isn’t tall enough to look over the car and they’re not fitted with periscopes.  Still, he’ll find out that there’s something coming when he gets his nose wiped at 30 miles per hour.


The next thing I have to do is to get around the car as quickly as possible and get back on the pavement.  This is fine on most occasions, well, as fine as it is walking out into traffic when you can’t see.  But, once or twice, I have come across a car park right on a corner.  I get around the car and there’s no pavement!  I’m thinking, “Blimey, the front of this car is wide.”


It’s not just inconsiderate for the likes of me and my guide dog.  There will probably not be drop down curbs near where these vehicles are illegally parked, so wheelchair and scooter users not only have to go into the road but also have to negotiate the curb down into the road and then back onto the pavement.  If the kerb is too high, the only option is for them to turn on the jet pack and fly over the car or to turn back and find another route. 


Ok, I’m not going to be strolling along where every vehicle is parked on the pavement, and neither are all the visually impaired people going to cover it.  The thing is, there’s sometimes a legacy left behind.  I’m talking about broken and uneven paving stones left behind by cars, vans and wagonsparking on pavements not designed and built to take the weight.  As terrifying as having to go into the road to get around a carelessly parked car is, falling over a broken paving slab could result in much worse than bruised pride.  Still, those joke rocking paving slabs that hide a puddle that squirts water up your pant leg are hilarious, aren’t they?  



The council pays out hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation for people tripping over broken paving slabs.  There is also the bill for repairs.  The money for all this comes from our council tax, which means that the majority of us are paying for the thoughtlessness of the relatively few.  Worse still is that my damned council tax is going to pay for people who cause me aggravation.  I may as well pay for someone to mug me.


Now, I suspect that you might not just be happy that these people get £60 spot fines, but you might even reconsider parking on the pavement the next time you are tempted.


However not all drivers are inconsiderate.  A few years ago when a friend of mine was out with his guide dog, he came to a controlled crossing and stood for a while.  He didn't know that the lights were not working but suddenly a guy shouted and said they weren't working and he would help my mate.  It turned out that it was the driver of a huge HGV arctic.  The crossing was a three way junction so he stopped his truck right across  the junction, blocking all directions so nobody could get past him nor overtake him.  He got out of his cab and came and helped my mate across the road, then got back in his truck and went on his way.  So, for every inconsiderate driver, there is always a considerate and kind one.  Still, it’s a shame that it takes someone to block a road to allow a blind person to get across safely.



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