As Living Streets celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2019, Aisha Hannibal, our Engagement Manager, looks back to our founder Tom Foley for inspiration.

Ninety years on we are continuing the work he pioneered and his ambitious vision for our organisation.

Kathryn Shaw
Tom Foley and family

Thomas Charles Foley always loved walking and never learnt to drive. Throughout his life, the founder of the Pedestrians Association - the predecessor to Living Streets - campaigned tirelessly to improve life for pedestrians as he became more and more concerned about the dangers posed to people by increasing motorised transport 

Tom was born in Liverpool on 4 December 1896. He was the middle of three sons born to William Albert Foley, a commercial traveller, and Minnie (nee Ring). As a young man, Tom wanted to enter the medical profession but so did his younger brother Edwin - so Tom went out to work to support his younger sibling through medical school.  

After leaving Liverpool Collegiate School, Tom trained as a journalist and worked for the Wallasey News.  He later worked for a selection of London newspapers before starting his own independent news agency. He often used the pen name Terence Traherne 

In 1926 Tom married Avis Dolphin, who was a survivor of the Lusitania tragedy. He had met her at the house of the man credited with saving her life in the disaster. Tom and Avis were Quakers and both had very strong principles.  

Tom’s concerns around road safety were confounded by the death of a friend in a road traffic accident.  In 1929, he persuaded Viscount Cecil to join him in starting The Pedestrians Association with the aim of representing the rights of pedestrians and promoting road safety.

In September of the same year, his first child, a son, was born, followed 20 months later by a daughter. Apart from some donations, Tom financially supported the association throughout its early years.  

I am very proud of my grandfather and all he achieved. He was a man of great integrity and strong principles, but he also had a wonderful sense of humour and fun. He was a modest man, but I am sure he would be proud and delighted to know that the organisation he started in 1929 is still going strong, and still campaigning for the rights of pedestrians almost 90 years later!

Catherine Tyrell - Granddaughter of Tom and Avis Foley

Tom campaigned tirelessly, supported by Avis whose secretarial skills were invaluable to him. She would organise mailshots, take his dictation, and type up letters and other documents for the organisation 

Tom’s granddaughter, Catherine said: "I am very proud of my grandfather and all he achieved. He was a man of great integrity and strong principles, but he also had a wonderful sense of humour and fun. He was a modest man, but I am sure he would be proud and delighted to know that the organisation he started in 1929 is still going strong, and still campaigning for the rights of pedestrians almost 90 years later!" 

One of Toms greatest achievements was campaigning for and persuading the government of the day to introduce safe, legal pedestrian crossings. To mark these crossings, he came up with the idea of the ‘Belisha Beacon’ which was named after the then Minister of Transport Leslie Hore-Belisha. The zebra stripes on the road were introduced later.

Tom also lobbied for speed limits in urban and residential areas, and was happy to take part in roadside demonstrations, waving placards at noted danger spots! He also led The Pedestrians Association in campaigning for the introduction of a driving test and sobriety testing.

In 1963 he was awarded an OBE for services to road safety. And despite his retirement, he continued to campaign on various issues until his sudden death after a short illness in 1979. 

 

Tom Foley

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