Belfast Telegraph

The politicians may be on a slippery slope, but they could at least help put the rest of us on a surer footing on our pavements

By Lindy McDowell

When I first heard of the scale of the cash coming here as a result of the DUP deal with the Tories, my immediate reaction (shameful, I know) was, 'Let's just split it, Arlene'.

Obviously I don't mean Arlene should simply split it between her and me (although...). No, I was thinking maybe divvy it up between all of us here.

The population of Northern Ireland is currently under two million (I'm too lazy to do the precise calculation). The windfall amounts to a cool one billion. That's at least 500 quid for every single person here.

Think of the party we could have.

Needless to say, wiser counsel has prevailed and we learn that the money headed for the Bank of Stormont will be channelled into health and education services, with a sizeable whack also going to infrastructure.

This is the bit I'm interested in. The infrastructure in question will involve major road projects, but if there's a bit of cash left over when that's done, I can think of another sort of local thoroughfare that could also do with an upgrade.

Our pavements.

I can only speak for Belfast since those are the streets I know best, but some of the pavements around town are currently so bumpy and uneven you'd make swifter progress climbing the Hindu Kush.

Belfast has the oddest melange of pavement surfaces.

One minute you're on Tarmac, next it's slabs, then tiles. There are tree roots bulging through here and there to enliven your journey with unneeded undulation. The odd patch of skiddy tiling which when wet would be a challenge even to the Belfast Giants. And most of all, sudden dips and troughs where you really do feel the concrete and the clay beneath your feet begin to crumble...

I once fell on the pavement on the Ormeau Road. As if that wasn't mortifying enough, I was with an American visitor at the time.

Without warning I'd suddenly gone totally flat out. He was horrified. "Ma'am, are you okay?" he enquired politely as I lay at my length. I wanted to howl.

I'd hurt my arm and skinned my knees like a five-year-old.

I never drive past that part of the pavement now without wincing.

To add to my grief, I later discovered how impressive was the average payout to people who sue for pavement falls (I didn't). Yes, historically - this being Northern Ireland - there has been serious abuse of the compensation system. People were driving to certain streets so that they could trip on the footpath and then claim compo.

But there must also be many people who have sustained quite nasty injuries from pavement falls.

How do wheelchair users cope with the rocky, rolling sidewalks of Belfast?

And that's even before we begin to consider all the clutter - the advertising boards and the like - creating an obstacle course.

And the cars that park right up over the kerb, effectively blocking pedestrian passage.

Obviously, not all pavements are a total mess. And yes, of course, we have to have priorities. But with some extra cash now sloshing around the system, the state of local footpaths must be due a review. And overhaul.

The health authorities are encouraging us to get out there pounding the pavements for our own wellbeing.

Some of those pavements however, have already been pounded just a bit too much.

What is called for isn't just resurfacing, but a consistency in resurfacing.

Fancy brickwork? Tiling? Pavement slabs? Tarmac? Let's just pick one, Belfast, and stick with it.

It's all well and good if the DUP dough does bring the impressive new roads.

But the sidewalks need attention to.

All that money coming our way. And we're still stuck on Skid Row.

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