'A new Pavement Code is needed for our busy society – pedestrians, bike riders and dog walkers beware'

Lindsay Ash

By Lindsay Ash

YOU often wonder what happened to the miners who were forced to discover new employment following the Thatcher years. Well, I can tell you where some are: they are running on Jersey’s streets at night. I have spotted several recently in their day-glow jackets with lamps on their heads as they wend their way along. I think many are still angry about what happened, because when you step to one side to let them pass they stare at you angrily. In fact, our pavements are becoming more and more perilous by the day and a new street etiquette is replacing what once was the norm.

I was quite surprised the other day when a lady looking at her phone narrowly missed colliding with me, mainly due to my side step, which fly-half Barry John himself would have admired. She said: “Oh gosh, I’m terribly sorry”, to which I replied: “That’s OK.”

Why was I surprised? Well, under today’s new pavement etiquette the woman should have given me at the least a large tut and death stare, as if to say: “How dare you walk on the pavement when I’m trying to talk on my phone.” Or, more properly, a “sorry Wayne, some idiot’s nearly bumped into me”.

This is worrying, as we need a proper code that we can all adhere to. In days of yore, when a motorist stopped at a zebra crossing he’d be greeted with a wave by way of acknowledgment. This has been replaced by a new rule: to put your head down and shuffle across as slowly as possible.

In fairness, people have adapted well to the “new code” and accepted it. Whereas 50 years ago someone wandering along the street talking to themselves might have warranted a straitjacket and a police presence, it’s now put down to the strange white things people have inserted in their ears enabling them to happily have a conversation with the invisible man while other pedestrians and passing traffic remain oblivious to them.

The new Pavement Code should have a piece devoted to cyclists and scooters. Now, I know they shouldn’t be on pavements but they are, so we need to know what to expect.

There’s one chap who dismounts his bike when he sees a pedestrian and smiles nicely. Another cycles past and smiles, holding up his hand to acknowledge your courtesy in moving out of the way. Another rides with no lights at all, dressed in dark clothing and expects you to get out of the way.

Three different approaches. Which is correct? I tend to like the bloke who just mows people down if they are in his way, as this can be backed up by saying: “Really? I didn’t know I was breaking the law by riding on the pavements at speed with no lights…” Whereas the others are acknowledging the error of their ways.

As I say, the new Pavement Code will not be easy to construct. And before the JEP is inundated with letters abhorring the anti-cycling message, the above is not aimed at the vast majority of cyclists, who obey the highway code in an impeccable manner; it is aimed at those who do not.

Rule one of the Pavement Code would be that “pedestrians have a duty, while on the pavement, to avoid obstructing any other users”. Would this include dogs that lay a “minefield” along the road from Roberts Garage to the Dicq Shack? Who’d be a law drafter, eh?

On the last point, I found it interesting to speak to a member of Unite (the union). This person said he conducted a presentation to a group of potential Labour councillors in which he asked them what they thought should be their main points of focus. The candidates went through a long list – the economy, unemployment, green issues, etc etc. When they’d finished he turned over a piece of paper or presentation slide and it said simply “dog sh*t”. His point being that most people were more interested in local issues, such as the fouling of pavements, than what could be termed “macro-economics”.

Perhaps our politicians could take heed, especially Reform Jersey, as getting the Island to ask for a ceasefire in the Middle East is virtue-signalling at its most extreme. We have enough problems of our own: the new hospital, Fort Regent, housing and the cost of living, not forgetting Bradley Wiggins and Lassie on the pavements.

Let’s fix those first before solving the problems in the Middle East, eh?

  • Lindsay Ash was Deputy for St Clement between 2018 and 2022, serving as Assistant Treasury and Home Affairs Minister under Chief Minister John Le Fondré. He worked in the City of London for 15 years as a futures broker before moving to Jersey and working in the Island’s finance industry from 2000. Feedback welcome on X/Twitter.@Getonthelash2.

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