Opinion with Christine Tongue: ‘Kerb crawling’ for beginners

Christine gets out and about but it isn't all a smooth run

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.

Turner Contemporary

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!

30 Comments

  1. Just like Christine l have just bought a mobility scooter, it was getting so hard to walk round the town, theory trouble is these scooters only like flat services so to try and get from to bottom of Broadstairs to up past peirmont is out, but to get round Ramsgate is great.

      • Christine Tongue – your scooter is a limited range one for pavement/shopping use only being restricted to 4mph. It will be limited in ability. A full size one such as my wife uses is far more practical having large wheels, range of 25 miles and road speed if needed of 8mph. They are able to mount kerbs etc and certainly tackle any Thanet hill. However, this type are not able to be dismantled to fit in car boot. Research is the answer.

        • Christine doesn’t need to research, she has a travel scooter, the same as mine. Separates and fits in car boot, therefore allowing travel to other towns and cities, where you simply upload and explore (today I used mine in London).

          FedupB, your scooter may have a longer range, and bigger wheels, but limits you to the local area.

          The scooter is a choice of what suits you best.

          • I don’t have a car or a garage. I needed a scooter that would go through my back gate and into a taxi or car if need be. I’d love another, longer range one as well but as my legs are a bit non-functioning at the moment I can’t go too far without a companion anyhow.

          • Phil – yes I agree you have one that dismantles into boot for carriage. However, it will be limited in performance due to size of wheels and it’s suspension. We owned one so I am very aware of their limitations especially in London and Canterbury where my wife enjoys her Theatre visits. She has to have a Carer when outside our home and very limited mobility. However, you need to operate them within their capacity. Kerbs and bumps have to be carefully negotiated . We have replaced this small scooter with one with larger wheels and therefore better and safer all round. This also dismantles and travels in boot. We do not have a garage for storage. Research is the key for any mobility item via trusted sources. Every mobility item is researched, especially as we have to pay for everything!

  2. Yes ladies, you are absolutely correct, so many problems, lack of dropped kerbs, or kerbs that are dropped, but still have a ridge, mission impossible. You have to try and plan your journey, looking as far ahead as possible, trying to work out where you can cross, then you find some pathetic driver has parked on the pavement, completely blocking the way for mobility scooters and also prams.

    Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs all have the same problem.

    • FedupB

      Isn’t that what I said?
      You buy a travel scooter because it is smaller, and fits in the car, therefore allowing you to travel further afield. A larger scooter, although better in many ways restricts you to just the local area. There are good and bad points about both versions.

  3. I agree. Dropped kerbs at every junction, or “table” junction (like outside the Albion) would be brilliant.
    And please can our legislators get their act together and make pavement parking illegal? Pavements are *not* auxiliary parking spaces.

  4. Pavement parking is a real problem everywhere. Also my biggest bugbear at the moment is that where there are dropped kerbs you often have to swerve to avoid a pothole as the surfaces of some local roads are atrocious. My scooter does go up much steeper hills than i first thought it would. I can get up Madeira Walk in Ramsgate and up the steep hill from the seafront back up to the kiosk. Amazing!! We will have to organise a clifftop rally one day in the spring. In the meantime keep scooting!

  5. You know you are in thanet because of the terrible state of the roads. They all need fixing, not just a few. Not getting what we pay for.

  6. Maybe its a thanet thing, Does tdc legally allow car drivers to drive over un dropped kerbs (crossover’s) to park half on the pavement outside their homes ?

    If its not allowed, tdc should use the powers they have ie enforcement. It could be a nice earner ! to pay for dropping kerbs at road junctions.

  7. I know how you feel about parking on footpaths especially when the drivers think parking on paths they are off the yellow lines but the law states it doesn’t matter which side the line you park you are braking the law ,also it’s an obstruction this is a matter for the police so TDC tells me, give the police a call 📞 they will get the cars moved, ps l have many photos the same where l live it’s a big problem in Thanet.

      • As it’s not illegal (yet) in Thanet to park a car on the pavement, there’s absolutely no chance of the police attending.
        However, it is illegal to *obstruct* the pavement, and I’m pleased to report that a year or so ago a whole line of cars parked completely blocking a road in Ramsgate were ticjeted; as was a car parked across a dropped kerb.

  8. Another problem are cars parked deliberately across half a dropped kerb so I cannot use it safely, as they also block my sightlines, are number two on my list. Grrrr!

  9. Thanks for writing this all of you. I have had a mobility scooter for nearly 2 years now but have used it only twice. Fear and lack of confidence has locked me up. I can feel that barrier dissolving now 🙂

  10. I’m not a scooter girl… yet, but I totally agree with you all. Pavements nowadays have not been thought through. Even pushing my Great Granddaughter in her buggy is a mission, in my day prams were higher from the ground with big wheels, easier to maneuver up and down curbs. I have a few friends with mobility scooters who find it difficult because the underneath gets caught on the high kerbs, wheels go down potholes etc. It’s time to bring our paths and curbs into line with modern day living.

  11. Sorry to be a pain and it’s not that I don’t sympathise with everyone and also believe more should be done to make our communities accessible to all BUT please think of the visually impaired. When they are out and using a stick wht kerb alerts them to a road. With dropped kerbs they don’t know they are walking into a road. We need a bit more thinking on this

  12. I got a police caution for kerb crawling many years ago-just shows there is one rule for the elderly & obese in scooters & another for thrusting young men in cars.

  13. Thinking about the visually impaired – how about if all pavements had a textured edge and dropped kerbs? And traffic in towns prioritised pedestrians and wheel users?

  14. I don’t have a mobility scooter (altho I’ve considered it), but with a painful ankle condition & having spent the last 4 months on crutches recovering from an operation on it, I have the deepest sympathy for the disabled & those with mobility problems. The state of pavements in Broadstairs is appalling. I’ve had to watch every step to avoid causing further pain or tripping. I’m not in favour of textured surfaces & have to avoid those designed for the visually impaired as it causes pain (& can’t walk on cobbles or on steep cambers). Getting up some pavements has been difficult & also into some High St shops because of steep steps. Yes, we definitely need more & better placed dropped kerbs (& don’t get me started on pavement parking!)

  15. I have been using a mobility scooter for the last six months after a stay in the wonderful Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore that got me mobile after the hospitals here told me I would never walk again. Christine is lucky living close to Broadstairs sea front. Try St Peters sometime. The estate where I live isn’t too bad except that KCC have never resurfaced the roads since they were built in 1954 – that’s the priority they give to council estates! Virgin Media have left depressions and dips everywhere with their poor quality cabling. However St Peters village is the real nightmare with pavements that end abruptly, a road throating that forces you to take your life in your hands and some monstrous potholes that would not be out of place in the battle of the Somme! I like to make it to ASDA’s which has good disabled access and a new range of improved products but there is no way to get there without running the gauntlet of the Village!

    • So glad you’re mobile again! They are brilliant at the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital. I’m hoping they can sort me out too.

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