Ensuring safety in the Meadows is far from a walk in the park

During the month of January, the sun rises just before 9am, and sets just before 4pm, spoiling us with seven hours of daylight. For those with an especially early or a late lecture, this ensures a walk in the dark, possibly through the park. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the dark. There’s nothing wrong with the park either, but the combination of the two becomes a case of ‘it’s not the dark, it’s what’s in the dark’ that makes this activity scary.

A spectrum of human behaviour is associated with the Meadows; on the visible end, there is often drunkenness, hormonal frustration and annoyed speed-walking. On the other end, there are the sort of horror stories that renders a walk through the park unnerving for anyone. Which is where Edinburgh University Students’ Association should step in.

To add lighting to the park, as well as security measures, so when someone starts a story with, ‘I was walking through the Meadows last night’, we don’t automatically assume it ends with an assault or a mugging.

Let us assume that the park will be, to some degree, an unsafe environment unless there is complete and full lighting in every section, preferably with security cameras, and potentially another form of security, such as guards or telephones. Furthermore, let us assume that the Students’ Association have the limitless resources needed to permanently sustain this set-up. The park would have morphed into a mundane permutation of a military zone. If it keeps the citizens of Edinburgh safe, this is almost certainly morally justifiable. However, anything less than complete and comprehensive safety measures will not eradicate the problems students – and other pedestrians – face.

And it is unlikely that the Students’ Association on its own is a sufficiently powerful force to give us an absolutely secure route through the park. Potentially, if the Students’ Association were willing to collaborate with the local council for better lighting, for example, the park would be a safer environment.

Yet the Meadows is the sort of issue that is easy to push around on the plate. Solutions are more than possible, but it would require investment. At the moment, there’s not a burning motivation for any relevant organisation to wade in and fix it all. Of course, there are the group of students whose lives have been directly and detrimentally affected by their experiences with the Meadows, who should not be overlooked.

And there is also student folklore, often converted into banter or urban legends. So far these reasons have not been compelling enough for any organisation to take serious remedial action.

But it’s the new year, so hopefully the local and student organisations are willing to aim higher, for the sake of the students, the locals, and anyone who just wants a nice walk in the park.

 

Image: Benjamin Brock via wikimedia.org 

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