I had my left hip replaced at Auckland Hospital in March and my right hip replaced in April. Recovering from surgery I am unable to drive or cycle for an extended period.
I have been getting a taste of what life is like for people with limited mobility trying to get around the city.
Sorry to report Auckland is not such a welcoming place if you aren't so fast on your feet.
Here are just a few insights from my attempts to get around my home turf of Mt Albert.
Where is Auckland's public seating?
As I hobble around getting tired, I am amazed at the absolute dearth of public seating. It is as if town planners don't want people to stop and sit and enjoy our city. Public seating is well used by older people and is crucial for those with limited mobility. Surely we want to encourage people to take neighbourhood walks and use the local shops? Has anyone mapped out where all the public benches are and tried to fill the gaps? In my own street in Mt Albert, residents from a retirement village walk or use their walking frame to reach the public benches further down the street and sit for a while to watch the world go by. We have lots of street trees to offer shade, why not have some seating underneath?
Why is there no seating at bus stops?
If we want people to take public transport we must make sure there is seating for people who can't stand. Some shelter from the wind and rain would also be good. Is that in anyone's grand plan?
Who cares about uneven footpaths?
If you have limited mobility, it is hard enough to walk along a level street. When you add tree roots, cracks or high kerbs, it can be dangerous or impossible. The people who maintain and renew our footpaths could do a lot worse than just watch how our footpaths are used, or not used. Neglecting our footpaths means neglecting people with limited mobility.
How to cross our busy roads safely?
Auckland is a city built for cars. Pedestrian crossings and controlled pedestrian lights become critical for people who need more time to cross but both are problematic. First, the distance to a safe crossing might be too great. Second, the time allowed should allow the slowest pedestrian to cross safely. At the moment it seems the timer is set to keep the cars moving.
Auckland must become an age-friendly city
Both the council's seniors advisory panel and the disability advisory panel have lobbied hard for Auckland to become an official "age-friendly" city. To achieve the title, Auckland has to meet some goals set by the World Health Organisation which encourage and sustain seniors' active involvement in their communities. One of those goals is to create an age-friendly urban environment.
I for one will be supporting the panels to ensure that this happens. It means the issues I have raised, which are largely the responsibility of Auckland Transport, would be addressed.
If Auckland becomes an age-friendly city, it will become a better city for everyone.