16 August 2013

Where are our militant pedestrians?

I blame Iain Docherty.   At this year's Spokes meeting, he called himself a militant pedestrian. It annoyed me then.  Especially as he kept harping on about redlight jumpers (there is no-where you are less likely to find RLJing cyclists than at a Spokes meeting).  But he got me thinking.  Where are the militant pedestrians? Why aren't they crying out for improvements to our streets?   Then I heard David Spaven talk.  Better known for his writing on trains, he set out a manifesto for pedestrians that really inspired me - his top three demands were a campaign to inform people about Highway Code rule 170 (watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way), sticky not sweet corners (ie make cars have to slow down to turn), and pavement continuing not roads.  Brilliant stuff.

But who's doing this on the ground? In Edinburgh it is mainly the Cockburn Association  and  Living Streets. Both have made very interesting and constructive interventions on Leith Walk and Princes St  (importantly arguing that there are more important things than just wide pavements).  The Cockburn's definitely been using social media more in the past year, but my sense - and I could well be wrong here - is that despite the existence of these two well-established groups, they are simply not a grass-roots lobby like cyclists. 

The real irony is that when I reflect on my* (very minor) lobbying successes this year, most have been as much - if not more - for pedestrians as for cyclists:   dropped kerbs at Harrison Park, pedestrian crossing at Melville Drive while Argyle Place shut, widened spur on NMW to remove/reduce conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, bins moved so that they don't block sightlines at crossings, tactile paving 'correction' on NMW.  Not a bad list, but some of them make me wonder why it took 'the cyclists' to get it fixed.  Surely pedestrians, and especially those who walk with guide dogs and canes, should be keeping tabs on tactile paving?  (and lobbying for it to actually be implemented according to guidelines all across the city?).  When Argyle Place was shut, cars simply booted it along Melville Drive, making it almost impossible for pedestrians to cross safely, despite it being near several schools, the children's hospital  and Edinburgh Uni.  But as far as I know, the temporary crossing was put in at Cllr Jim Orr's request and at the instigation of cyclists.  Ironically, cyclists were not legally allowed to use the crossing, as there are no mobile toucan crossings. But something needed to be done, and it seemed to take a bunch of mouthy cyclists to get it done.  

This just illustrates the point that there is room for a united front. We won't agree on everything, but we are all pedestrians, and we all have common interests in making more liveable.  And if we could get more militant pedestrians tweeting, blogging, engaging with consultations, we'd be a powerful force, because we really all are pedestrians, militant or not. 

* when I say 'my' I don't mean me, myself, but things I was involved along with many others. 

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