We love a lot about where we live in Sheffield. Walkley has a community spirit, a village feel, and you can bump into people you know when you’re out and about. There are independent shops and a lot of great people.
But there’s also a darker side, which Louise and Pippa faced bluntly this week.
They’d been meeting people at a café, and Louise was out on the pavement on her phone, trying to check with them about the blanket that she’d left somewhere. She was feeling slightly stressed, as Pippa doesn’t like sleeping and was unsettled. She will go off in the pram if she is kept moving, so we do a lot of rocking the pram back and forth.
So, Louise, on her phone, standing on the pavement (at the green opposite Asda), pushing Pippa back and forth in the pram.
Something makes Louise turn around, and she finds a driver wanting to mount the kerb to drive onto the part of the pavement she and Pippa are using. She’s a person on a pavement, they’re a driver in a car on the road. The rules are clear – she doesn’t need to move for this. She turns away and continues rocking the pram.
The driver flashes his headlights to get her attention.
Busy with other things and not feeling like escalating a confrontation, Louise moves away from the car and he drives onto the pavement and parks.
Getting bullied is pretty upsetting, and sometimes you try to make a bully face the effect of what they are doing.
She stands by the car and waits for him to get out.
“Sorry, I believe the pavement is for people, not cars.”
A simple enough, polite and factual statement.
As he turns away, the driver shrugs, saying “well, we live in the modern world”, and walks off to the shops.
A few questions
- How does this make you feel?
- Is this the kind of “modern world” you want to live in?
- Should we expect to be able to park wherever is most convenient to us, regardless of the effect on others?
- If not, what causes this expectation? Is it just inconsiderate individuals, or is there encouragement to assume entitlement by the authorities who are responsible? The city council decides where parking is allowed, how much it should cost to use (or be ‘free’, ie paid for by all), and how to enforce the rules. They loudly advocate for the freedom to drive and park, and the local councillors in this ward included ‘increased parking’ in their past achievements in the area. These decisions set the incentives for our behaviours, and the boundaries of what is acceptable in how we live together in a community – do they protect the freedoms of everyone or encourage a culture which our streets can’t sustain?
- Is being able to park near shops needed for them to have customers? Or can it be a hindrance, creating an area swamped with vehicles and so less appealing as a place to visit?
- Is it possible for us to fit into our community all the driving and parking we wish for, and at the same time be a place where people – especially older people and children – can enjoy, walking about without noise, danger and pollution, and can spend time and build relationships? If not, which side of this balance should we – and our leaders – be tilting towards?
- In most of Walkley there is enough room to park fully on the road without blocking it. Is the reason (even if subconsciously) for parking on the pavement to protect the owner’s car from damage, or trying to be considerate to other drivers by leaving the roadway wider and easier to drive along – at the expense of that same consideration for people using the pavement?
- Where there actually isn’t space to park properly, does this mean that we are beyond saturation point and cannot fit this many vehicles into our streets? What would lead to fewer cars in the area? Would rental-on-demand services like City Car Club make unnecessary some cars which are only used occasionally, by giving people a cheaper, and still convenient, alternative way to use a car without needing to own one?
- If our streets were designed differently, with some (doesn’t need to be all!) of the space used by parking on key routes like South Road changed into wider pavements or protected cycleways, would alternatives to driving like walking and cycling be more appealing choices for more people?
What this looks like
These are not exceptional. This is Walkley every day now.