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We need more awareness about the importance walking infrastructure

Have you ever wondered why footways are the way they are? I guess many of us hardly ever think about them. They are part of our urban jungles in the most ubiquitous way, unnoticed, until you trip with a uneven slab, or it becomes to narrow to navigate whilst pushing a baby trolley, or self-propel a wheelchair, or too high to lift your heavy suitcase... sometimes they simply disappear under overgrown weeds or piles of rubbish, forcing you to walk on the carriageway. 

But, how all these details add up to the point that we start avoiding to walk? Let's just reflect about how the condition of the footways and plazas in our town have impacted our lives today, during the last month, or even better... fast-forward 30 years to the future! 

This space is to open a conversation about how pedestrian spaces impact our daily lives, and how these impacts change with age. Feel free to post any comments, anecdotes, reflections. Do think of walking in a wider, inclusive context, accounting for the needs of users with different accessibility needs, which might be temporary or permanent.

"Walking is so vitally, centrally, important to us, at both individual and collective levels, that it should be reflected in the way we organise our lives and societies."  (O'Mara, 2019)

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Georgie Cade 11 months ago

Octavio you're so right, I never think about pavements at all. But for those who may have disabilities, young children, mobility issues or simply may have slightly less good balance or more frail bones with age - this suddenly becomes a big obstacle. Do you think having poor environments to walk in (e.g. uneven pavements) may stop those groups from being able to participate in society as much as they'd like? I'm thinking of one of my neighbours who is older and has experienced a bad fall recently - she is now reluctant to go out much as she is worried about tripping again. Everyone, how could we help those kinds of people?

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Octavio Zamudio 11 months ago

Hi Georgie! well, yes, I do think that this diminishes the opportunities of some groups to take on their daily activities, be it social, or basic needs as going to buy a fresh loaf of bread or going to a medical appointment.
Recent evidence from LivingStreets found that:

" cracked and uneven pavements (31%), obstructions on pavements including pavement parking (24%) and people driving too quickly (22%) were the top three things preventing people aged 65+ from walking more or at all.
The new research found that half of older adults (48%) would walk more if their pavements were well-maintained, there were lower speed limits (28%) or more places to rest (25%)."

https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/news-and-blo...s-stuck-indoors

These are all environmental factors that could be and should be carefully accounted for in the design of urban environments.

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Alice Hardy 11 months ago

Thanks for starting this discussion, Octavio! You make a great point that we use pavements everyday but many of us don't give them much thought. One of the things I notice in my London neighbourhood is the amount of VERY wobbly paving slabs, which I've fallen victim to myself! I remember when I was little, I fell over an uneven paving slab and my mum reported it to the council who came and fixed it. I remember feeling quite proud that my accident helped get it fixed haha. I wonder how we can make it easier to report problems like this?

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Octavio Zamudio 11 months ago

Thanks for sharing your experience, it's really helpful for me and others to understand what's going on in this context.
The feeling of ownership of our spaces is what empowers change sometimes. Being able to report an issue and have it fixed is an important aspect of this.
Now imagine if instead of being a young girl, this had happened to you at your 65+ ending up with a hip fracture! Hopefully the call your mom did to fix it helped somebody else.

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Miroslava Katsur 11 months ago

@Alice Hardi, there is a website ramblers.org.uk and The Pathwatch app which allow anyone to report any issues with paths and access land. However, I suspect that not many people, especially older folks, know these website and app, and not many are confident users of phone apps/websites. Also, this Pathwatch is a charity-run project which solve over 600 path problems each year in England and Wales. So, I doubt that a person can report an issue with pavement on their street as a problem and get it fixed quickly.
I also found another website which also involves voluntary reporting: https://www.gov.uk/report-problem-pavement . As it is said on the website, "most councils are responsible for maintaining the majority of pavements including removing weeds, replacing broken or missing slabs".
Additionally, there is another website with an interactive map: https://www.fixmystreet.com/ . It allows to see other reported issues in any area.

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Octavio Zamudio 11 months ago

This is really cool, thanks. As smartphones become more widely used by all generations, the age gap will eventually be less of an issue. But I guess that if we are all aware of the challenges that pavements in bad state represent to the society in general, there will be less need in relying on less tech-savvy users in reporting faults (perhaps those in older age groups).
Citizen participation is one of the key points enabled by technology, and I expect this to pick up more and more.
I'm amazed, fixmystreet shows almost 10K reports during the past week.
Wow. I just wonder how Royal Mail could aid with this, the postmen walk all around the city, They could really contribute to reporting, or even better, automated risk detection could be implemented in post karts! I'll look into this.

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Heather Logie 11 months ago

This is a common problem with older and disabled people - they don’t pick their feet up so much and are much more likely to trip and perhaps break bones, especially ankles. I think it would be such a good idea for the Royal Mail to assist and report issues with pavements on their rounds.

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Catalina Romila 11 months ago

I think that the issue you're describing has so much more impact on our lives than we realise. The fact that some people aren't able to do their daily activities due to fear of tripping over or inaccessibility is something I feel needs to be brought to councils' attention. Even for people with no disabilities or frailty this can be problematic, and I think the more vocal we as a nation become the more likely it is that something so vital to our lives will adequately be provided and taken care of. The main challenge most of these issues related to healthy and happier living is all to do with awareness, which in turn has the power to bring about much needed changes. So the more we start pointing things out the more likely it is that somebody is going to listen.

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Adrian Girling 11 months ago

Thought it might be worth mentioning, tactile paving was first developed by Seiichi Miyake, a Japanese engineer and inventor in 1965. When you know this, you very quickly see how many paving slabs have little patterns on them to alert people with poor sight to a discontinuity, like the edge of a train platform or when the pavement you are on meets a perpendicular road. Now widely used in the UK. I believe there are different patterns you can feel with your feet to alert to different.

This doesn't help the poorly maintained pavement problem, but I do think it's a fantastic idea.

Blind or partially blind people tend to walk with a longish stick, sweeping from side to side to alert them to obstacles. Older people should be encouraged to use these - maybe they could be a different colour to white?

How about a shoe sole which vibrates when you don't lift your feet, to encourage people, young and old, not to shuffle?!

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Octavio Zamudio 11 months ago

Hi Adrian,

Absolutely, tactile pavements play a key role by enabling the independence of users with visual deficits. I believe than rather than encouraging users to user movement aids, we the society should provide the social and physical infrastructure to minimise their burden. However, using walking sticks will be something that most of us at some point will have to experience and adapt to live with.

Your idea of haptic feedback through shoes is quite interesting, this could have further uses, as physical therapies.

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Miroslava Katsur 11 months ago

Status label added: Conversation starter

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Angie Bianco 9 months ago

I've found that the reporting Apps are only as impactful as the reaction from the local authority.
Major challenges have arisen in the last 5-6 years with the huge increase of pedal cyclists, scooter riders on pavements and more recently the motorised scooters. Until the local police and council make it one of thier priorties, there will be no safe place for less mobile or able pedestrians.

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Georgie Cade 9 months ago

Status label removed: Conversation starter

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