Posted by: Gregory | June 3, 2015

Urban empathy

This is just a story. Anecdotal evidence is not evidence, but it can still illustrate a point. Spoiler: the point of this story is how people pay attention to the needs of others.

While out walking yesterday, with my son in the buggy, we encountered two bits of footpath disruptions. The first was some work involving a crane operation at Regional Wines and Spirits. As we approached, we were met by a guy in a high-viz vest. He was making sure that pedestrians could safely navigate the area and get to where they were going with minimal fuss.

Heading south on Adelaide Road, we found the second disruption. The dropped kerbs were being replaced at Douglas St and there was a pedestrian detour in place. Following the arrow around to the plywood ramp, I was met with a double-parked van blocking access and no driver in sight. Going around the back of the van was my only option, but it blocked sight lines to any traffic turning onto Douglas St. The boy and I were rather vulnerable as a result as we crossed over to the other temporary ramp. A couple metres onward, the footpath was again blocked and the only access through was a squeeze behind an NZ Post box mounted on the corner. Unfortunately the buggy didn’t quite fit in the space and it took quite a bit of bouncing around to get through the space. None of the workers batted an eye in our direction.

There are a number of plausible reasons why the two work sites differ – different contractors, maybe requirements of the crane lift, or maybe the first worker was just a nice guy – but there was clearly a different level of service for pedestrians in the area.

Before we reached the next intersection, we saw a girl walking along with a white cane. I felt that she deserved to be warned of the trouble she’d find when she got to Douglas St and she seemed quite appreciative. For a cost of a few seconds of my time, I could save someone from a potentially miserable experience because this is a city and we all live here together.



  1. I remember when construction started at Countdown in Newtown the first thing the contractors did was paint out 2 car-parks replacing them with a broken yellow line without permissions from the council. Snapped by yours truly; next day the car-parks were back.

  2. Great story Greg. Would be great if the public service ethos could become the norm!

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