Pavements for people? I think I'll trademark that - Susan Morrison

In 2017 Edinburgh hit the top spot for the world's most ‘walkable city’. And it is. You can walk home from virtually any pub in the city. Well, I can. Very handy. Sobers you up. During lockdown, many of us strode out our state-sanctioned one hour exercise on the city pavements. We can get about on foot pretty well in this neat city.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 12:30 pm
Cafe culture may have returned to the Royal Mile this summer but pedestrians are forever getting squeezed out, writes Susan Morrison.

If you think all cities are walkable, can I introduce you to Los Angeles? A few years back we went on holiday around Southern California in an RV. Just about the first survival skill we learned was how to cross the road. Fast.

Even fairly ordinary Californian suburban roads are the width of the M8, only with pedestrian crossings. They have little green men, just like ours, although, this being California, it's probably more accurate to say ‘little green person’. Either way, when that light is green you immediately go for launch, because this dude moves fast and transitions to red way faster than the crossing on Great Junction Street.

We quickly learned to cross with slow moving old age pensioners as human shields on either side, like cowboys escorting the wagon train. Even better, make sure they had military veterans caps on. These guys could have stopped Smokey and The Bandit dead in their tracks.

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Pavements just didn't exist in some bits of the city, and we were once gently interrogated by two police officers who just wanted to know ‘why we were walking?’.

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So yea for a city where you can stagger, stride and stroll. It's got space for people. Oh, hang on, I’ve heard that before. Ah yes, the council’s ‘Spaces for People’ plan, which is apparently now one of those ideas the council puts in a dark cupboard and pretends didn’t happen.

Good, because I was never sure exactly which people the spaces were for. Here in Leith, like other parts of the city, the pavement was widened onto the road. This pushed pedestrians closer to the traffic.

It was a great way to rediscover forgotten memories if you were walking along there when a demented demon delivery driver hurtled past, because your life really did flash before your eyes.

Wheelchair users had to contend with kerbs.

Young mums were a tad nervy. Their buggies were close to traffic either travelling or idling, spewing out a lovely cocktail of airborne chemicals just at baby-nose level.

I know, I’ve banged on about this before, but if we really want to make our pavements for people then let's start by making sure you can actually walk on them. I know that the council budget is tighter than a pair of size 10 jeans on my backside, but can we at least start to fix the wonky flagstones, the broken slabs and the people-trapping potholes?

Can we just have a think about outdoor seating? Lord knows, I too have embraced the outdoor cafe culture, but it narrows the pathways and can make it awkward to get about for the folk who need wheels. And if you don’t need wheels, and I am looking at you, cyclists and riders of the new menace, the scooter, get off the pavement and onto the road.

Pavements for people. Jings, I think I’ll trademark that. Could be a new slogan.