Dangerous steps leave elderly residents seriously injured

Wednesday July 12th 2023

EDINBURGH- Dangerous steps leave elderly residents seriously injured


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Residents of an Edinburgh retirement home have told of how negotiating treacherous steps on the way to the shops has left them with broken shoulders, shattered teeth and black eyes – as they ask the council if ‘somebody has to die before it’s taken seriously’.

Calls for a ramp to be installed to create safer access between Queen’s Court and Craigleith Retail Park have grown in recent years following several serious accidents.

Having been deemed a ‘low priority’ project for years, there has been little hope of improvements, although a local councillor said plans are now being explored which could see it bumped up the list.

This would involve building a new active travel link between Queen’s Road and Maidencraig Crescent, connecting up with the nearby paths network, to benefit those wheeling and cycling through the area as well.

Residents at Queen’s Court retirement flats estimated there had been at least one serious incident involving the stairs every year over the past decade.

One asked: “Is somebody going to have to die before it’s taken seriously?”

Margaret MacNeil, who broke her shoulder after falling in October last year, said:

“I went to Sainsbury’s to do a shop, came back and I didn’t have much in my bag. Half way down, I seemed to stumble over my steps and it was like Superwoman flying through the air.

“I landed on the bottom concrete step where I broke my shoulder. I was in agony, my face was all scratched. I couldn’t stop shaking and my knee was bleeding.”

Ms MacNeil, 87, was taken to the Royal Infirmary where she was told it would take around a year for her to recover.

She added: “I had quite a few appointments, physio and all the rest of it, but it was really quite painful.”

89 year-old Judith Lowder said she fell “flat on my face” in February whilst also returning from doing her shopping.

“I had a smashed face, broken teeth, grazes knees and hands. I was a mess – a bloody mess,” she said.

“Previous to that I had a stroke and that had something to do with my balance so I think that was a factor.”

Ms Lowder said she didn’t use the steps for a few months after the incident but started again recently as the detour round using the road was too far for her to walk.

Betty Rodger, 87, said: “I was near the top and fell upwards, for some reason I turned my face and I shut my eyes. They took me away to the western, I had a black eye.”

She added a some residents who have passed away “had really bad falls” and wouldn’t be seen for weeks afterwards.

One of them, William Notman, who died in 2016, also “tumbled down the steps” as his wife Ann recalled.

She said: “I thought he was doing okay but obviously he wasn’t – he missed the fourth step and went flying down.”

Ms Notman, 83, added: “He already had dementia, he got up and said ‘oh I’m all right’. He was fragile at the time, it was quite a fright to see somebody could fall like that.”

After bearing witness to the struggles faced, fellow retirement home occupant Eileen Harvey, whose window faces the precarious stone steps, started a petition and gathered over 100 signatures in favour of a ramp being installed.

“There’s no reason why a ramp can’t be made – it’s quite possible,” Ms Harvey said.

“It’s a long way round for somebody whose walking is not as good as it should be and it’s a long way round to go all the way round so they end up having to take their car to get to the shops – and we’re all being encouraged to get out of our cars – and people are not able to walk that distance from here.”

Ian Fowler, secretary of Queen’s Court residents association, said the situation had become “worse over time” and added the steps weren’t just an obstacle for the elderly locals

He said: “The steps are well-used by the wider community including young mothers, I’ve seen young mothers with pushchairs and buggies and everything trying to negotiate steps.”

Hal Osler, Liberal Democrat councillor for Inverleith, said after initially being classified as a local ‘low priority’ project by officials, a scheme to deliver better access was now part of the council’s active travel programme.

She said by feeding in to the city’s active travel priorities and goals cut car journeys, the project could get the funding it needs more quickly.

She said: “Unfortunately the people of this community and the many others that pass through have waited a long time for improvements and have read many aspirational documents but little change has occurred.”

Councillor Osler added it should “be easy to progress something that is supported by all, that understands and delivers on the transport hierarchy and will also reduce car usage”.

Councillor Scott Arthur, transport and environment convener, said: “We’re working on a long term programme of ramp upgrades across the city as part of the Active Travel Action Plan to improve accessibility for everyone, though need to prioritise limited resources.

“Our roads team have visited the steps to make sure they are safe and we have recorded this location so that it can be taken into consideration when developing plans for future investment.”

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