May 23 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 12, 2012
OVERHANGING branches, broken kerbs and cars parked on pavements can be a nuisance for anyone.
‘Street clutter’ is a frequent problem in Saffron Walden.
Mark Pivac, of Old Mill Road, is one of three Guide Dog owners in the town. Blind since the age of 18, he has taken “one in the face” from flailing foliage on more than one occasion – he said the last incident happened just last month while walking with his Guide Dog, Blaze, at the entrance to Lord Butler Leisure Centre.
“My mind was on something else and Blaze was not attentive to my head height. I took a face full of branches. It is not a nice experience,” said Mr Pivac. “Blaze is trained to look up for overhead objects in my way, but it can be difficult in unfamiliar places or if it branches are flailing in the wind. The situation is worse when it is wet because leaves and branches are laden with water and so much heavier.”
The Reporter met Mr Pivac by the offending tree on Peaslands Road and during the conversation witnessed young schoolchildren, who were walking to the leisure centre, having to duck under the same overhanging branches – indicating the issue is a problem for most.
But Mr Pivac, who travels to London where he works as a journalist for the BBC world service, is quick to point out that it is not the only place in town, where overhanging tree branches or thorny rose bushes trailing from people’s gardens are a problem. Hotspots include South and Fairycroft.
Vehicles parked on pavements are also a problem, forcing people – blind or not – onto busy roads.
“It is unsafe to have to walk round and into the road but there are occasions where I have to do that,” said Mr Pivac. “It is not just blind people who are affected – it is a problem for anyone, particularly at night when the street lights are turned out in parts of Saffron Walden.
“There is a general lack of consideration and I think many people are not even aware it is a problem. Everyone should be mindful.”
Mr Pivac’s plea comes during annual Guide Dogs awareness week (October 6-14) and on the back of the charity’s campaign – ‘Streets Ahead’. The campaign aims to inform shopkeepers about the nuisance of poorly-positioned A boards and to change the behaviour of motorists who park inconsiderately on pavements, blocking footways.
Another integral part is to show householders that by maintaining their hedgerows, taking the time to trim overhanging branches and thinking about where they put their wheelie bins, they can help to make using footways easier and safer for blind and partially sighted people.
For details of how you can help, visit guidedogs.org.uk