A strong advocate for disabled people using footpaths

Published in our eBulletin newsletter, April 2024

Paul Gruschow is a long-time advocate for better accessibility for pedestrians, both people walking and for users of mobility scooters. Having multiple sclerosis means he now uses a mobility scooter for his everyday travel around the Hutt Valley and Wellington.

Paul is a Living Streets Aotearoa member and regularly attends events such as the recent Walk2Work Day and Park(ing) Day in Wellington. He says his presence reminds people that footpaths are not just for pure pedestrians but also for users like himself who don’t walk.

He is very active in advocating for safer footpaths with his local Hutt City Council and is on the River Link Project Design Committee in the Hutt Valley, where the river’s stopbanks are due to be raised, affecting pedestrian accessibility. Ellen Blake from Living Streets Aotearoa is also on this committee.

“I’m there to give pedestrians a voice and to remind others that pedestrians include people like me. I also think I’m a dampener for the cycling lobby who usually have a strong presence. The steeper paths that are suggested will be fine for cyclists but not for pedestrian users like myself.”

He says shared paths generally aren’t good for pedestrians, particularly with the rise of escooter use. He should know as most days he uses the new ‘Beltway’ which is a shared path stretching 7km through the Hutt Valley. He does like the fact that it has reduced the number of road crossings to seven, down from 20 previously, which makes it safer for pedestrians.

In addition to his work focussing on footpaths, he runs two groups at Laura Fergusson Trust, for people in their disability residential care facilities, to help improve wellbeing with activities like quizzes, talking in groups and music. Paul is also involved with Te Whatu Ora on the Consumer Advisory Group for the Wellington region’s three hospitals, and on the Serious Adverse Events Committee for the hospitals. His particular area of interest is people having falls.

His message for anyone who wants to make a difference is to look for something which uses your interests and your skills, then give it a go.

Photo: Paul Gruschow at Park(ing) Day 2024 in Wellington.

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Living Streets Aotearoa is the New Zealand organisation for people on foot, promoting walking-friendly communities. We are a nationwide organisation with local branches and affiliates throughout New Zealand.

We want more people walking and enjoying public spaces be they young or old, fast or slow, whether walking, sitting, commuting, shopping, between appointments, or out on the streets for exercise, for leisure or for pleasure.

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