As a member of the Age Friendly Steering Group I am very pleased to have received Living Streets’ Charles Maher Award, which recognises an individual or organisation that has campaigned to get more people walking in their area. I believe such campaigning improves the lives of older pedestrians, and all pedestrians.
Five years ago I returned to Leeds and decided to finally settle after living and working across the UK and overseas. It was a city I did not recognise as the one I was born and brought up in. I found it far more congested, busy and less community oriented. I was struggling at many levels: the loss of my father, which was the catalyst for my return; anti-social behaviour in the environment around the family home; isolation due to no nearby friends; the lack of meaningful activity and a loss of identity as I cared for my mother and renovated the house I had just bought.
I had two options: carry on with the routine that was being created by responsibilities coming my way or take the initiative to create my own, whilst addressing the issues that I was not content with. It is no surprise that I chose the latter. I have not only always been a proactive person, but also used first hand insight I have of communities and the topics in question to recognise what the problem is and how to rectify it. I formulate a plan by establishing who might be able to help, then finding out which means I can use to contact them. I am prepared for there not being a simple answer or a straightforward resolution, so ensure I am patient, determined and ready to persevere.
These qualities form the basis of the campaigns I pursue and the passions which motivate me. One of the most significant for me is what is happening on our roads and pavements. There are many dimensions to transport: availability, pollution (noise as well as fumes), volume, safety, and accessibility. (In my time as a volunteer with the Age Friendly Steering Group, it is nearly always at the top of the agenda). In this instance, I focussed on the last two in relation to a new road layout near to my home and a long-established junction. Both, in my opinion, were not even considering the pedestrian or the vulnerable, let alone giving priority to them.
I started by contacting my local councillor. However, after nearly a year of over ten phone calls and as many promises of meetings with local councillors and/or the relevant departmental staff, nothing had materialised. So I wrote a lengthy email directly to the Climate Emergency Committee (CEC). This was similarly unfruitful – quite shocking given the title of the group and the subject in question. For a while progress was minimal until I checked one of my emails from the Age Friendly Steering Group and the attendance of Councillor David Jenkins. I asked LOPF Friendly Communities Officer, Elizabeth, if he would contact me, which he did. David then took it upon himself to address the issues I had raised by connecting each with an authority on the subject.
Once again there was a filtering down to the two local issues and communication with an officer in the Access department and one in Highways. I arranged to meet up with both of them at the two locations in question. We discussed the new pedestrian crossings and addressed the issue of the timer. Though resolved for this particular case, it is one that I have further pursued because I still do not believe the location of the new side crossing is safe for pedestrians, especially if they are disabled or vulnerable. This has been supported by the feedback I have received from several users with such impediments and my personal experience.
The three of us then walked to the junction of Shadwell Lane, Wike Ridge Lane and Roundhay Park Lane. It did not take long for the officers to realise how dangerous this was for pedestrians (including them!). With only one push-button crossing, ramps not available throughout or on islands and the pedestrian left ‘blind’ at crossings when traffic could emerge at any time from around a corner or when left on the mid-road island. There was general agreement that this fell short of the city’s standards for access and safety. I was told that Slaid Hill Junction would be inspected that month by the relevant team and then put forward for inclusion in next year’s budget. I will keep watching that space to ensure the work is carried out!
In the meantime I shared this information with Living Streets, whose work to protect and support the pedestrian I keep engaged with. This is the feedback I received from their Co-ordinator: “I am not exaggerating when I say that your work really captured the imaginations of my colleagues and I. We are proud to be able to recognise you with our award”.
I am proud that my friends and colleagues at Leeds Older People’s Forum worked with me to achieve this recognition, and I’m delighted that LOPF is now working on wider transport issues and solutions for older people through its new Travel Connections programme.
Age Friendly Steering Group member