Respect the Zebra!!

Tuesday 19th July 2016. 8:15 a.m. The junction of Crondall Street and Pitfield Street. 

img_0843A last minute check of leaflets and posters is done – the eternal question of ‘are we really ready for this?’ echoing round our minds. Then, emerging from the church gardens is… a zebra. A closer look reveals that this is, in fact, Graham Hunter, the esteemed vicar, dressed in a zebra onesie on what is possibly the hottest morning of the summer so far. We’re ready.

Believe it or not, a month’s worth of hard work and listening has led to this moment. At the end of June, Molly and I arrived at St John’s, ready to get stuck in as interns from CTC (the Centre for Theology and Community) and to find out what people felt about living in Hoxton – their loves and their concerns – with a particular focus towards just finance and road safety. Our first Sunday at St John’s coincided with the shared lunch, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to start our listening campaign. We had printed out a map of Hoxton and asked people to mark with stickers the place where they would most like to see a zebra crossing. This revealed that people were concerned about the area immediately surrounding the church – an area that the Crondall Street/Pitfield Street crossing falls into.

We met up with various people over the next few weeks, listening to what they had to say. We learnt that people were concerned about the zebra crossing that has not been replaced following the redevelopment of Pitfield Street, and the number of cyclists coming down Pitfield Street who don’t stop at the zebra crossing that is just outside the St John the Baptist School. We then held a coffee morning at the school in order to find out a bit more from parents there what they would like to see. This discussion confirmed our action: the cyclists were the biggest problem. So we began to hunt down the much-needed zebra onesie, as well as making leaflets explaining why we are there and the concerns that had been raised, and a poster saying “respect the zebra” to be held from the side of the road. We also arranged a meeting with those at the council responsible for road safety in order to pass on our concerns – this was very successful, and communication is still ongoing.

Tuesday 19th July 2016. 8:45 a.m. The junction of Crondall Street and Pitfield Street.

We have our leaflets. We have our sign. We have our zebra. It’s show time.

Despite the early start that was involved, we deliberately chose a time that coincided with the school run, in order to be the most effective response to the issues that were raised. Lots of cyclists stopped – possibly encouraged by the cries of “respect the zebra” coming from the pavement – and they are quickly given a leaflet. Some road users do not stop – they are booed – and, on one memorable incident, one person stopped, and the cyclist directly behind him did not, leading to an early morning pile-up (that said, they both immediately cycled off again, appearing no worse for wear). Lots of people – pedestrians and cyclists alike – stop for a quick selfie with the zebra-vicar, and almost everyone who passes on foot tells us how necessary such an action is, and what a problem the cyclists are. The workmen on the building site near-by are keen to get involved; cue pictures of their lorry at the zebra crossing, being ‘stopped’ by the zebra-vicar.

We aimed to do something that highlighted the need to stop at zebra crossings, but that was also fun and eye-catching. Judging by the number of laughs we got from onlookers and passers-by, I think we succeeded. It was a fantastic – and fun – end to a fantastic – and fun – month.

Laura Macdonald

Summer Intern – Centre for Theology & Community
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