I heard a tragic story this week involving a friend who lives in a Welsh village. She was walking her Springer Spaniel Izzy on her lead along a footpath near her home. A massive tractor came hurtling through, pulling behind it a double set of trailers (that is two trailers attached one behind the other, a bit like train carriages). The driver was going far too fast, and was apparently oblivious to anything except the road ahead. He seemed unaware that there were folk walking on the paths, unaware that his trailers were swaying from side to side perilously close to them.
Despite traffic whizzing by, being on the pavement makes us think we are safe, but really, we are only safe if drivers are paying attention not just to the road, but also to what is going on beyond its edges. Sadly the driver in this case wasn’t. His last trailer caught Izzy, dragging her into the road and under its wheels. The owner, who had hold of the lead, was also pulled into the road, but thankfully she escaped physical injury. Her beloved Izzy, though, died instantly, leaving her whole family traumatised and heartbroken. The driver did not stop.
My home village is fairly typical, no doubt much like that one in Wales, and a major worry for me is the state of the pavements. Over the years, more houses have been built and more cars are parked on the roadside. We’ve come to expect that, as most families now have a minimum of two cars. Many of the cottages were built in the 19th century when there were no motorised vehicles, and so the plot of land they each stand upon is not sufficient to provide parking space. As such, residents are forced to park on the street, and so it can be a case of stop-start as you drive through, patiently waiting for the traffic coming towards you to overtake the line of parked cars before you can take your turn to pass.
In some parts the footpaths are very narrow, or even non-existent, in others, they are uneven, worn away and very poorly maintained. Many of our residents are elderly and get about with the aid of sticks, frames, or even wheelchairs.
There is nothing between the pavement and the road apart from a small curb, and sometimes the vehicles thunder past just inches from a pedestrian. As well as cars, we get plenty of farm vehicles, buses, caravans, delivery vans and heavy lorries passing through. Some owners have taken to parking half on the pavement to make it easier for the traffic, but the knock-on effect is that it makes it extremely difficult for pedestrians with prams or buggies, or for the elderly, to get by and so they have to step off the pavement to negotiate the obstacle. They are literally taking their lives in their hands as they do so, particularly if they are physically unable to leap out of the way should anything untoward happen. Add into the mix difficulties with hearing or sight, then they are completely at the mercy of road users.
Bin day is particularly hazardous. Most residents try to leave their bins and recycling boxes in such a way that they are not blocking the pavement, but not all, and once they’ve been emptied, it can look like a hurricane has passed through. For some, it makes walking on the footpath almost impossible, and so they are yet again forced to step into the road.
So do me a favour and have a thought for those who need a safe and clear pavement.
One last note note – I’d like to ask those of you who have garden greenery overhanging the street to have a quick look to see if it is obstructing the pavement in any way. If so, please cut it back so that the less able can get through without fear of tumbling into oncoming traffic. You might not have noticed, but little by little, on the other side of your garden wall, your plant has gradually nibbled away at the amount of space on the other side. I urge you to go have a look, and if need be, cut your encroaching plant back. People like me, who worry for our elderly loved ones as they try to go about their daily business, will be very, very grateful.
Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 4th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 2nd October 2022