This is a report on the state of footways / pavements in Eynsham, in relation to elderly or disabled people who are using wheelchairs or disability scooters or other forms of disability frame. It was prepared by CR Caudle, 56 Marlborough Place, Eynsham OX29 4LZ email and compiled 11 August 2010. Please note, what follows is not necessarily endorsed by Eynsham Parish Council. View update November 2010: County Council response.
INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
Having lived in Eynsham for around 52 years, I am no longer a newcomer. I served the village as a Section Officer (Sgt) for Thames Valley Police Special Constabulary for 10 years, and started the first Eynsham foot patrols.
Like most people, I would walk the village streets without much thought to the pavements, unless I tripped on a raised paving slab. However, I became disabled in 2008 and suffer with my spine and hip joints due to Ankylosing Spondylitis (calcification of the spine), which makes it extremely painful to be jolted and is exacerbated by sharp movements.
This year I obtained a disability scooter to enable me to visit the shops, and importantly to visit mum in the churchyard - which I have not able to do since Christmas, as I cannot walk far. On my first outing I was very careful, as I had to see which paths I could or could not go on.
I was shocked at the state of the paths around the village and the effect they had on my spine and hip joints. They were fine for walking on, but I don’t think any thought has gone into their impact on people in wheelchairs or motorised scooters, or users of walking frames, or any who are infirm or elderly or injured.
My disability scooter has pneumatic tyres and springs front and back; some have solid tyres and only rear springs. The effect on them and on wheelchair users would be far worse. One elderly lady called Margaret, whom I met at the Day Centre, tells me she does not go down to the Co-op with her 3 wheel frame - she is just too frightened as the paths are so bad. That seems to sum up the current state of affairs.
A number of other people in the village agree the paths are a disgrace. I even have the support of Care with Care and Director Jan Malpus, whose staff take the elderly for walks in wheelchairs and frames, who also agrees that something needs to be done - and soon.
I felt that the elderly, the injured, and indeed anyone with a scooter or wheelchair, should have a better deal in getting around, especially in their own village. I therefore contacted Councillors Margaret Stevens of West Oxfordshire District Council and Sue Osborne on the Parish Council and offered to carry out a survey and report.
I have prepared this report street by street, with photos of areas that cause considerable shaking / jolting and exacerbate any existing problems - the Slideshow at the top of the page shows a selection. It is important to note that while paths may look OK, even to the trained eye, the only way to judge their state from a wheel-chair or scooter perspective is to ride along them.
I present these findings in the hope that some working party can be arranged to discuss a strategy for change - to make our lives easier now and the future. I would also suggest that disabled people are consulted or have a seat on any future working party, or indeed before any new paths or dropping of kerbs.
In carrying out this survey, I found the same four problems recurring time and again:
I have also found access plates for gas, cable etc, which have sunken into the ground at an angle. Worse still are areas of concrete pathway that have broken up leaving small holes, which may seem nothing to walkers, but seriously shake up anyone on wheelchairs and scooters.
In all, the situation for wheelchair and scooter users is serious. It is no wonder they don’t get out much, unless it is absolutely essential, given the state of some paths. The mounds, rough areas, poor tarmacking and poor upkeep have rendered some paths unusable for the people this report is aimed at. The no-go areas are:
DROPPED KERBS: It is a common practice these days to drop kerbs for cars to park in the driveways. However the practice of sloping the path penalises people who are elderly or disabled. Cars have powerful engines and could easily go up from the road if just the edge was lowered; meanwhile disabled people suffer the fear of tipping over.
BODGED REPAIRS: The other main problem is tarmac which is badly repaired by contractors and not checked by the council. If you have large holes, then why fill the large hole but leave the small ones, it makes no sense, and only leaves the small holes to get bigger in the future, and then requires a return visit incurring more cost.
THOUGHTLESSNESS: The rough surfaces, holes, bad tarmacking, obstructions and dropping of paths for car entrances are forcing people in our position not to venture out - especially at night. But householders are creating further problems, by:
It cannot be right to discriminate against the infirm, the ill, and disabled people in this way, not deliberately, but by the lack of knowledge.
PRIORITIES: I am well aware of the national state of finances and its impact on our councils, but I suggest this situation is so serious that funds should be taken from other projects, or grants applied for, at least to repair the main routes:
Disabled and elderly people should have a fundamental right to access shops or any other business or for recreation. At present many will not venture to the shops or the playing fields, or even to see the Carnival because of the state of the paths. Ideally the whole path should be replaced to the standard of the stretch on Witney Road. Had proper maintenance been carried out over the years, it would not involve high cost repairs. Lessons should be learned and a proper maintenance routine instigated.
The village footpaths have been there a long time, but they have suffered neglect over the years. Recently it is evident that more emphasis has been placed on accommodating the car driver, as well as lack of forethought when improving pavements and pathways or indeed installing new paths on estates, in terms of lowering kerbs and resurfacing and general upkeep of these important access routes. In many places it is smoother to ride on the road than on the paths - which is dangerous, as a scooter / wheelchair will not be expected there.
I have ridden along the paths listed in this report and it was worth enduring pain to get this survey done; but until the paths are repaired I would not want to do it again. The same issues came up on a regular basis:
I hope the photos will give a better understanding of the problem - the Slideshow at the top of the page shows a selection.
Worn out surface with bumps along the full length of this path.
This street has a number of problems – from rippled effect on tarmac which has been brushed on in the past, to damaged and raised tarmac and plates, to sloping drives and overgrown shrubs, and 2 areas of cobbles.
Plate edges exposed and rough surface with ridges.
Raised plate, uneven and bumpy surface and cars parking on pavement.
I was surprised how much damage there is on this comparatively new estate, the pathways are in general poor, as can be seen in photos people are using the path as a parking place instead of parking on the road it was built for.
Obstructed by recycling boxes - also holes and dips.
Raised plate and cracked tarmac.
Sunken plate and blocked by bins.
You can gain access to this path but this is crazy, you cannot get off the path or even get on to the other one – no dropped kerb.
No tarmac covering, raised plate, ridges, sunken tarmac and bins left on the path.
Cracked, sunken concrete and poor tarmacking.
Bad tarmac and cracked and unlevel path.
This is the opposite pathway and again neglect and poor tarmacking is causing severe jolting, and would be very painful.
This is very bad. There is a dropped kerb to get onto this path from the junction of Wytham View, however at the turning into Beech Road there is no continuing dropped kerb.
Raised plate and poor tarmacking make a bumpy and jolting ride.
There is no room to get a wheelchair or scooter around onto the pavement unless you go onto the road, the area is taken up with planters and signboards. I recommend the signboard be moved back to allow access, or placed where the man in white shirt is.
Pathway to St Leonard's churchyard. The concrete slab needs attention as it is restricting access for wheelchairs and scooters trying to get past the bins.
Ridges, large hole, cracked surface and slope, uneven surfaces.
Again both paths have slopes and raised mounds and poor upkeep, it is not recommended to travel on these paths
Cracked tarmac, uneven surface, mounds from tree roots.
Tarmac holes and sunken path and raised tarmac.
The pavements are in very bad repair and the people I know to have scooters in this close use the road instead of the pavements because of the bad state with sinking of tarmac, broken pavements and obstructions that you have to drive through.
Sunken and broken tarmac
Overgrown - needs cutting back, otherwise you have to drive through, getting hit in the face.
Holes in the tarmac and rough surface.
The recent dropping of kerbs and sloping of concrete has increased the problem. There is path damage, poor tarmacking with ridges and lumps. Travelling on these paths is uncomfortable, shaky and jolting, which is not pleasant just travelling to The Spar. The road is the better route, but this is dangerous for people.
There are cars parked half on the pavement by owners that live there, and hedges and shrubs are overgrown with bees and wasps which you have to drive under, risking being stung.
Two dangerous areas can be seen in the photos, where apparently the rest of the path was not completed when the dropped kerbs were made. I have tried this and with just 2 wheels just about on the good and the bad part, it felt the scooter was about to tip over. I may be OK at 57 but for a pensioner of 70 or 80 it would be very dangerous and frightening. The state of the paths is very bad.
Tarmac ridge jolting the rider, and cracked surfaces.
Dropped drive tarmac with ridges, also cars parking on pavements.
Extremely dangerous drop path, it does not appear that this has been completed and is a danger to wheelchair / scooter users
Hedge encroaches so far out you cannot get past with a wheelchair or scooter.
Ramp has uneven surface and very steep slope.
This side of Mill Street is worse, with very steep slopes and very poor paths.
A disgraceful example, at the main crossing to and from the post office and library.
The surface by the post office is OK and crossing over is fine, but opposite, as shown here, you are faced with a steep slope with a sunken drainage channel at the bottom which is very uncomfortable.
This would be frightening and dangerous for disabled people and should be treated as a priority.
Sunken cover and sunken concrete.
I recommend that this barrier is removed. I can only just squeeze through, but the elderly or other wheelchair user or scooter would not, especially if they have to go to the doctors. The alternative is a detour along Evans Road or Acre End Street.
Entrance to the flats. The chippings and stones have not been kept swept into their area, the stones are all over the pavement and along the pavement which makes for a very uncomfortable and painful ride - especially as this pavement suffers also from ripples in the tarmac.
This is in fact the better side of Mill Street on the way down to the Co-op, though it has problems as will be seen here.
Very uneven ground considering this is the way to the Carnival and will be unpleasant for all.
The pathway on this side, from opposite the newsagents down to the playing field, is not as bad as others, that is until you want to get into the parking area for the field, especially at carnival time. The pathway is bumpy and overgrown and in no fit state for wheelchair or scooter users.
Stones from the driveway make for an uncomfortable ride and shaking.
The route beside the chain-link fence to the Sports Pavilion and Sports Field is hardly a path, and the rough surface peters out in the car park.
Along the north side Playing Fields the bushes are overgrown and brambles scratch arms.
At the junction with Queen Street, the dropped kerb is a total danger to all users. The drop is the wrong angle and the kerb is not low enough. This was the only one which tipped me over and is a no go area.
The entrance to Queen Street from Oxford Road is impossible on the path. Wheelchairs and scooters and frames have to go on the road, as the obstructions on the path make it impossible to pass as it is too narrow.
The eastern side of the street is a no go area, due to the state of the path just past and opposite the Queen's Head. The poor surface on the western side gives a ripple effect and the area before and after the Queen's is terrible on the spine. The pathway by the thatched cottages is too narrow and there is no alternative than to go onto the road.
Dropped kerb not low enough and obstructed by a car.
Raised plates, tarmac missing, surface rippled.
Uneven surface from raised tarmac which is in bits; drainage channel.
Cracked and uneven paths with holes.
This road has some bad areas of tarmac which need replacing; in addition I found holes where plates had vanished years ago.
Pathways are very bad. You cannot get around the opposite path and there are no dropped kerbs.
Raised plate and poor tarmac, ridges.
Very poor surface, poor tarmac, ridges, sunken areas.
This has the one good stretch of path in the village, however the dropped kerbs are not low enough. What they should have is a drop to road level.
After the good stretch it gets bad again, with dips and bumps heading for Acre End Street.
Entrance to Bartholomew School. There is no dropped kerb on either side, so no one can use the path to get around.
The more direct route crossing from one path to another is OK but ... the road surface between each path is terrible for wheelchair / scooters / elderly people to use.
Holes and poor tarmac, ridges and sunken parts.
This part of the village is the worst. The ride along the paths was painful and in some places it was a job to get through and stay on the path itself.
This area looks to have been neglected for longer than the rest of the village and I would deem this a no go area. The only alternative is to ride on the road.
Rough surface and the path peters out.
Hedge overgrown - wheelchairs cannot get past unless half on grass.