I’m writing about Kentish Town Road because that’s my daughter’s favourite shopping street. It’s where she buys her balloons and cakes; and catches the bus into town. Eléonore is 31. She has severe learning disabilities, impaired vision and hearing, mobility problems and suffers from unpredictable and frequent epileptic seizures. Nevertheless, she loves being out and about with her two support workers. What with the traffic and its busy pavements, Kentish Town Road is not the ideal street for Ellie, although it prepares her for life not being risk-free. Frankly, I believe she needs to experience and learn to cope with the daily annoyances of city life. She can’t be protected from everything.
With this in mind, I strolled down Kentish Town Road imagining I was with Ellie, either walking arm in arm with her or pushing her in her wheelchair. It wasn’t that busy but that highlighted some potential obstacles to her safety: the A boards that traders place on the pavement to advertise their wares. I am happy to report that the vast majority of these boards were placed as close to the shop fronts as possible. It is the rare exceptions that cause the problem because they are unexpected. It would be great to go into a shop displaying a dangerously placed A board and tell them to remove it or correct its position in the street. However I do not know what rules, if any, Camden Council lays down for regulating the use of A boards (dimensions, materials, location on the pavement).
I suggest that it would help if Camden publishes leaflets that lists the rules, request traders to observe them and remind them of the penalties of repeated offences. These could be available for Camden residents and they could hand one into an offending trader. The funding of these leaflets could come from the Kentish Town Business Association. It must be in that association’s members’ interests to have happy loyal customers.
And now onto a completely different source of danger for Eléonore when out on Kentish Town Road: the light-controlled crossings with a mid-way island -for example, the crossing by Kentish Town tube station. Those islands are no place for Ellie. If she were to have a seizure whilst halfway across the road it would be catastrophic trying to protect her from passing vehicles at the same time as dealing with her seizure, and administering her emergency anti-epilepsy drugs. All the crossings on Kentish Town Road should be free of islands with a generous amount of ‘green man’ time to enable people with mobility and vision difficulties to cross without feeling pressured.