A BLIND pensioner is constantly being forced to walk out on the road because of cars parked on footpaths, right up against buildings.
Tony Geary, 68, wants to raise awareness before there is a serious accident or person killed. The Doon man developed severe glaucoma in 2007 and within two years was blind. He loves going walking - often two, three times a day - with his cane and beloved guide dog Stan.
However, every time he does, he takes his life in his hands. A couple of times a week Mr Geary will be walking along a footpath and Stan will stop.
“I use my stick to find if there is a gap between the car and the wall. Stan won’t go until I say to him ‘Well, we have to go off the footpath onto the road” and he’ll go around the car then for me. It is extremely dangerous. The village is very busy.
“It’s hard enough having a disability without these extra obstacles put in your way,” said Mr Geary.
All the locals know the popular Doon man and don’t park too close. It is often people coming into the village who don’t know the consequences.
“If there is space to get through it’s no problem parking on the footpath. It’s when the car is right up against the wall... Sometimes there is more thought for the car than the human being - that is the impression I get,” said Mr Geary.
Doon is just one example of a widespread issue. And this problem doesn’t just affect those with sight problems.
“People in wheelchairs are in the same situation, they have to go out on the road too. The community built a lovely new playground and they have a fine hurling pitch, but if the cars are parked up close on the route then the children and their families with buggies have to do the same thing.
“I’ve often been passed very closely by tractors and trucks. My dog is so good that noise doesn’t affect him. I’d often be afraid that I’m going to be hit but I trust him. I often wonder, God almighty, if an old person who was anyway deaf or their sight wasn’t the best... It is frightening. The Road Safety Authority say you should use footpaths provided, but if there are footpaths and you can’t walk on them - what do you do?” asks Mr Geary, who adds that Doon has lost its local garda, due to the cutbacks.
He has had many near misses and often has to stand in as “cars fly past”.
“One time there was a tractor up on the footpath and there was some kind of a machine onto it. Luckily he had slowed down, the dog and I were going to the side and next thing this bar was up against my glasses. There would have been nothing on the ground where the cane was to pick up the object and my head would have gone straight at it.” And he is regularly hurt when he collides with wing mirrors of 4x4s parked in too close. As clever as Stan is he can’t see above him. Sometimes he meets the motorists parked too far in.
“Most would be apologetic and understanding. They don’t realise what they are doing is very dangerous”. But three weeks ago he met a man on the Monastery Road who had no consideration
“I said to him, ‘Do you realise where you are parked?’ and he said, ‘I do’.” Mr Geary says the man had no problem with it, He wouldn’t give his name and drove off.
Mr Geary is telling his story to raise awareness.
“There is no reason to park up against the wall. People locally understand and are compliant but loads don’t seem to realise it,” said Mr Geary, who has called for signs to be erected. Cllr John Egan echoes this.
“I have been raising this problem for the last year. People must be able to walk the streets. There needs to be improved plans for villages, more electronic speed sensor displays, pedestrian crossings and extra parking facilities in our towns and villages. Locals need to be able to park close to their local shops to support them.
“I am asking people when they are parking to be considerate, not go right into the wall, and think of people like Mr Geary, those in wheelchairs, have disabilities, the elderly and parents pushing buggies,” said Mr Egan.