Last night I had to go to one of Millbrook Parish Council's deeply interesting planning meetings. The meeting itself was pretty uneventful, considering that one of the applications we were looking at was a bit on the contentious side.
But this posting isn't about the PC's assorted committees and procedures. No, this is about what happened on my way home at about ten or quarter past eight. So that's just after dark then.
I was heading homeward, white cane swooshing in front and Mrs The Millbrooker's laptop tucked under my arm, when I was hit at some speed by a bicycle!
Let's take a look at what was going on. The young man on the bike is, presumably, normally sighted. But chose to ride at the quickest speed he could muster along a dark(ish) and unpavemented street without any lights on his bike at all and offered no warning of his approach. So I, with retinitis pigementosa (which affects low light vision very badly), get thumped in the leg and side by an arsehole who has no idea of how to use the road.
He rammed into me and, of course, fell off (hurting himself and damaging his bicycle, I do hope) and started muttering apologies. Bit late for that, really, I'd have thought.
I said, quite calmly "where's my white stick?" It had been knocked clear away from me.
"What?" came the reply.
"My fucking white stick, I'm blind, you've hit me, where's my white stick?"
"Oh, I didn't know..." he scrabbled about and found my cane a few yards away. What did he mean, he didn't know - what the fuck is a white stick for? (1) It helps to guide the user around a obstacles and (2) it warns everyone else that there's a problem for them be aware of.
"You're very lucky I'm not hurt," I told him. "Or I'd be suing you to hell. It's illegal to ride without lights and you're riding, in the dark, like a twat."
With that I walked on. (Can you tell I was and am still seething about this?)
I'm now sitting here with a whacking bruise on my leg and bit of a sore ribcage.
The rules of the road - lights on bicycles, audible warnings...they're there for a reason. And sometimes I am that reason.
On a similar note about me sometimes being the reason, take a peak at the photo below, shamelessly stolen from the DfT's website.
Parking on the pavement - any readers ever do this? You know, just for a few minutes, put a couple of wheels up onto the kerb while you whip into the shop, or drop something off at someone's house?
If you do, I'm going to ask you to to stop and think about it for a moment. What you're doing is creating an obstacle for someone, like me, with a visual impairment. It's quite possible that a wheelchair user or someone using a pushchair will have to walk in the road to avoid your vehicle. It's almost inevitable that a pedestrian who can't see properly will bump into your car, possibly sustaining an injury; possibly being forced to walk in the road.
White cane users often use a technique called "shorelining" when using a pavement. What we do is use the cane in a frequent movement to locate the kerb. In this way we know we're safely on the pavement and not too close to the edge. So what happens when a thoughtless vehicle user parks with a couple of wheels on the kerb? I'll leave my undoubtedly intelligent readership to work that out for itself.
As often as not, when I come across a vehicle parked on or partially on a pavement, there's a proper parking space within a hundred metres or so. So not only thoughtless, but lazy as well. If you want to cause an obstruction then at least have the courage of your convictions and obstruct the road; other vehicle users are in much less danger than a pedestrian through poor or obstructive parking.
I'm seriously considering starting a sticker campaign. Creating some removable, but not easily removable, stickers for cars parked in this way saying something like
"I'm A Selfish Bastard.
I Park on Pavements"
in bright lettering. I'd quite enjoy slapping them onto any offending vehicle I come across. If I sort some stickers out, would anyone else like some?