Alastair Dalton: It’s pandemonium for pedestrians on pavements

Pedestrians cross the road at the bottom of Edinburgh's Frederick Street. Picture: Jane Barlow
Pedestrians cross the road at the bottom of Edinburgh's Frederick Street. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Whatever our personal favourite or normal form of transport, we are all also pedestrians. This is ironic, because those on foot often find themselves at the bottom of the pecking order when it comes to priority on the roads.

Pavements can be in an appalling state of repair, they may be left virtually impassable from flooding or snowfall, and crossing the road is difficult if not near impossible in some areas.

Then there’s the everyday obstacles to contend with, from dog waste and litter to sign boards placed outside shops.

Further hazards come in the form of competing users sharing paths, such as cyclists, joggers and dogs - both on and off the leash.

It’s the ultimate space sharing, and after a bad experience, it is not surprising that some retreat to the private, controllable space of their car to get about, albeit with the different challenge of negotiating other traffic.

The grim news is that there’s not much sign that things are likely to improve.

Cash-strapped local authorities are struggling to find enough money to keep on top of potholes, so spending on pavements is likely to be an even lower priority, despite vastly more people walking than driving on some streets.

Safe places to cross is an area I have addressed before, with the long wait for the green man to come on at some crossings simply encouraging jaywalking, although some of the more militant pedestrian campaigners refuse to recognise the term, asserting the right to cross the road anywhere.

Obstacles in the path of walkers should be an easier problem to tackle, but more innovative measures should be tried.

An entertaining column about dog waste, among adverts for mansions for the super rich in the House & Home section of the Financial Times last weekend, highlighted various approaches to the worldwide scourge, including Taiwanese officials offering free lottery tickets for anyone handing in dropped bags of the stuff.

One London council - Camden - is dishing out pink fluorescent chalk spray “to embarrass pet owners who haven’t cleaned up”. I’ve requested a can to try out on the streets of Glasgow.

Sign boards cluttering narrow pavements in front of shops also need to be dealt with - along with vehicles parking on pavements, which is the subject of forthcoming legislation.

As for the version of “hell is other people” on shared paths, it’s probably a case of more mutual respect.

That isn’t helped by councils making some pavements “shared use” between pedestrians and cyclists without sufficient signs to warn walkers, or else creating separate lanes.

However, in my experience, even cycle lanes on pavements painted green seem invisible to some pedestrians if they don’t have cycle symbols on them.

Joggers wearing high-visibility tops are a great example of “Be Safe, Be Seen” - by all - but I’m hearing disturbing tales of walkers being barged out of the way by runners during mass “parkrun”events in parks which have not been closed to other users.

As for dog walkers, the irresponsible use of long, retractable leads on footpaths is a menace to everyone else, along with uncontrolled, unrestrained dogs.

We are all pedestrians, and we’re being encouraged to be them more often, but we also need to look out for each other more as well.