I am a beginner in mobility land. I’ve graduated in the space of few weeks from stick user to wheel dependent, due to rebellious bones and covid keeping people like me out of hospital. So, thank goodness for electric mobility scooters!
My new one comes to pieces and can be stored in the house. My front room is full of bits of equipment, walking frames, tripod walking sticks and now the scooter. And I’ve had to sacrifice a bit of garden to get the thing to the back of my house.
But I can now go further in Broadstairs than I’ve been able to go in a year. Just the end of Stone Bay becomes a thrilling adventure.
The seafront is fine. I can tootle along at a speed I haven’t achieved for ages — fast walking pace. But Broadstairs town is full of huge hazards for new wheelies. That’s quite apart from the massive slopes at Louisa Bay and Dumpton which I would only tackle if the lift was open to get me back up again. I can’t risk getting stuck on a hill if my tiny electric engine gives up.
To leave my street I have to use the dropped kerbs outside houses with garages. But if someone’s parked on the pavement I’m done for. Ordinary height kerbs could toss me into the road if I try to cross them, broken dropped kerbs likewise. And if I am forced into the road, potholes can give me a nasty jolting.
Why can’t ALL kerbs be dropped? It’s just a town planning issue. Outside the Albion Hotel in Broadstairs at the crossroads of the High street and Albion Street, there’s a slightly confusing bricked road area where all the kerbs are rounded off. No step, just a sloping edge. Easy for wheelies like me or push chairs or bikes. Several metres of usable ways of getting me from pavement to road and back again.
Tiny dropped kerbs create a real challenge to scooter beginners. Imagine aiming for a space the size of a large Toblerone with your front wheels while trying to avoid pavement hazards like dogs on long leads and pedestrians oblivious of my toe crushing abilities, etc etc. Then speeding to the same kind of space the other side once I’ve dodged through the traffic. This is Dumpton Park Drive, a ludicrously wide road with creatively placed dropped kerbs. But it’s not untypical.
Broadstairs seafront is wide and smooth running but as soon as you hit paving slabs you realise they’ve been laid by someone with a taste for inequality. Bump, bump, bump. Same with cobblestones. Whoever thought they were a good idea? Tripping hazard for stick users and non-stop jolting for wheelies.
And who plans for steps everywhere? Even prestigious buildings like Turner Contemporary feature a magnificent flight of steps! A horrible concrete gully takes wheels of all kinds to what feels like the tradesmen’s entrance round the back. Once inside there is an amazing huge lift to take you to the first floor — couldn’t that have started at ground level?
Who tells architects and town planners it’s ok to marginalise the disabled? Well, we do, I suppose, through our politicians. Time to make a fuss. Who’s for a kerb crawling campaign?
Wheels of the world unite — we have nothing to lose but our kerbs!