A personal column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers
Fresh air aids recovery, they say, and with that thought in mind I’ve been waddling around my little street with two wooden sticks like a drunken duck for the last six weeks.
As well as the limping pain I’ve experienced as I’ve battled to get back to normal after my second successful hip operation at Harrogate Hospital in under a year, I’ve noticed something else on my regular minor jaunts.
The air round the junction of Forest Lane, Bogs Lane and Starbeck High Street isn’t fresh.
I can taste the fumes in my lungs.
I may be wrong but I swear it hasn’t always been that way in the area of the friendly cul de sac where I’ve lived for the past 17 years.
It would be easy to point the finger at the rising percentage of 4 x 4s and SUVs in Harrogate’s daily traffic as a possible cause.
But the disconnect between our shared desire to do something about climate change while being individually attracted to bigger and bigger vehicles may not be the only culprit.
Having made the same trek three times a day for what seems forever, I’ve noticed just what an impact the newish traffic light system has made - for good and bad.
The Bogs Lane junction may now be safer for pedestrians and drivers crossing to and from Bogs Lane.
But, even when traffic is quiet, the lights act as an artificial check on the progress of motorists leading to queues of static cars.
While nowhere near as bad as our worst car pollution black spots – York Place in Harrogate, Bond End in Knaresborough and Low and High Skellgate in Ripon – I’d wager the new lights system has made air quality worse.
Along with a rethink on our dependence on petrol, perhaps we need to rethink our dependence on traffic lights, too?
As an obsessive music fan I’ve heard of ‘Sticky Fingers’ but ‘sticky streets’?
It turns out it's a new buzzword/words for areas dominated by small, local independents who want to prosper together rather than apart and share a common sense of community.
More than a matter of simply making money and shopping, 'sticky streets' make customers and residents alike feel attracted enough to the area to stick there, almost in a consumer version of 'reclaiming the streets.'.
Obviously, it’s the sort of phrase we associate more with trendier metropolitan conurbations than traditional town centres in North Yorkshire.
The surprise is that there are stirrings of this modern phenomenon starting to happen here, especially in Harrogate.
The problem is, even as the H&Ms, Jamie Olivers and Thorntons of this world struggle in the face of rates, rent and austerity, we remain dazzled by the big brand names.
Perhaps, that’s why the powers that be are trying their best to turn a blind eye to the mounting tide of shop closures, possibly for the fear of making things worse by simply bringing it up.
Equally troubling is local authorities’ failure to support in any tangible fashion the growing number of indie bars, restaurants, galleries and shops in our midst.
Rising by stealth, so strong is this movement in Harrogate, in particular, most of the elements are already in place for our own ‘sticky streets’.
The only question that remains is whether the authorities will recognise the world is changing – and needs to change.