Lucy Facer meets Islington parent and mobility scooter user Carly Ashdown to find out what impact People Friendly Streets will have on the school run.
Islington Council announced the implementation of People Friendly Streets (the council’s brand for low traffic neighbourhoods) across half of the borough by March 2021. They will have a significant impact in reducing traffic, creating safer roads and improving air quality across the borough.
When I met Carly at the corner of Liverpool Road and Islington Park Street, she had just experienced an abusive situation with a car driver. In fact, it was so recent she pointed out the driver who was still at the traffic lights. Carly’s story is shocking.
‘I’ve just been dealing with another road rage situation” she told me, “beeping, shouting, I get all kinds of abuse from drivers.”
Carly is an Islington resident, an established artist and mother to a six year old who attends school in Barnsbury. Like the majority of disabled people, Carly doesn’t drive a car but she has a mobility scooter that enables her travel. She picks up her son from school every day, skillfully navigating local streets.
“At least once a day, drivers beep or shout at me, but it can be as many as five times a day. It’s quite upsetting. Sometimes I wear a pollution mask or headphones to help me block out the abuse – it helps me cope.”
The worst roads are the busiest ones: Holloway Road, Liverpool Road, Upper Street, but none are good. Cycle lanes make it relatively better for Carly. Mobility scooters have a legal right to use the road, but drivers make Carly feel unwelcome. They make her feel as though she is an inconvenience on the road.
“It’s not safe, the roads are really quite dangerous. Cars overtake me on blind corners as they can’t wait – my top speed is only 14 kilometres per hour. They often behave as though I shouldn’t be on the road.”
The law also allows Carly to use her mobility scooter on the pavement. “But I can’t go faster than 4 kph on the pavement and there are often obstacles in my way. I always travel on the pavement when I have my son with me as I would fear for his safety on the roads”
However the pavements aren’t always easy to navigate. As we walk towards her son’s school, the pathway is blocked. A workman has put up a temporary fence. Pedestrians can easily pass but there’s not enough room for the mobility scooter. Carly calls out to him and he quickly moves it allow her to pass, but these things pop up all the time. It may be a tree stump causing a pavement to rise up or a lack of dropped curbs but essentially, she feels there is no place for her.
“It’s like choosing between a rock and a hard place – whether to go on the pavement or road.”
Driving around during lockdown gave Carly respite from abusive drivers. “The roads were much safer, there was much less traffic which made it much easier to drive on the roads.”
I asked Carly what she thought of Islington Council’s plans to create People Friendly Streets.
“It will make it much easier for me to travel around, the roads are much safer when they are closed off to through traffic. I can easily navigate the filters and my journey becomes much less stressful. The more space there is, the less abuse I receive.”
Over half of air pollution in Islington is created by traffic and this has the most significant impact on vulnerable groups including children.
“As far as I’m concerned they will be a win-win, People Friendly Streets will mean safer roads and less air pollution for us all.”
People Friendly Streets will be life-changing for Carly. They will improve her access and her ability to travel around the borough safely. Her advice to anyone with a disabled relative – low traffic neighbourhoods will significantly improve their lives, safety and mobility.