Urban Navigation for Pedestrians

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At 7.23 this morning as I was still fast asleep, Himself thought it would be fun to go and start the day with breakfast in town. Where did I think would be a good and open at 8.00? Despite my deep slumber, by 7.36 we had made a decision and were on our way out with the dog in tow.

On yet another interminably miserable damp grey morning, I was tempted out as much by the prospect of walking a new route home from the city centre as by the attraction of a nice coffee in the Victoria Quarter to start the day. VQ (not to be confused with brand VB although equally aspirational) is a delightful place to hang out at any time of day, marred only by the jarring aesthetic of Louis Vuitton practically rubbing shoulders with a new Poundland next-door-but-one.

Going home via Chapeltown Road in Leeds is my preferred driving route, but it’s not an obvious pedestrian course. First, it’s not especially direct when you see it from a bird perspective. More challengingly, it involves venturing across the Sheepscar interchange on leaving the city centre.

I can’t beat the description of the Wikipedia entry for Sheepscar which states Clay Pit Lane, effectively an urban motorway, runs through Sheepscar to the south, while Scott Hall Road makes up the eastern border. The area consists of complex road junctions, Penraevon Industrial Estate and a number of warehouses thanks to the impressive transport links attractive to haulage companies.

Put bluntly, navigating as a pedestrian across the .37 miles of the junction calls for the survival and orientation skills of Bear Grylls. And I’m not Bear Grylls, even on a sunny day.

I had a target point in the far distance to head towards, but the loopy combinations of pathways, cycle paths and carriageways overseen by a forest of traffic lights and pelican crossings had me zigzagging the terrain as though I were traversing a swamp infested with crocodiles. The dog gloomily trailed at my side, tight leashed and bored with stopping and starting every few seconds. I couldn’t blame her. I thought wistfully of at least three alternative more practical
routes.

But it was with a degree of triumph I reached the other side. I marched along the Chapeltown Road with the demeanour of a 19th century explorer, and even the dog perked up. We had made it.

We had crossed Sheepscar.

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