When it comes to our streets, cyclists and Disabled people can sometimes appear to be natural foes, with each group permanently camped on opposite sides of the active travel debate.
This narrative paints Disabled people as being inevitably opposed to things like cycle lanes and traffic-blocking bollards because they make it harder for them to get around and they have fewer alternative ways of travelling than non-disabled people.
But community reporter Mik Scarlet and Wheels for Wellbeing director Isabelle Clement explain in this piece that it doesn’t need to be that way – that cyclists and disabled people can work together to create a better transport infrastructure that promotes active travel while not excluding Disabled people.
“There is no intrinsic clash between disabled people and cycling infrastructure, provided it is done with the right thinking in mind.” Isabelle Clement from Wheels for Wellbeing.
Click below to listen to Mik on the new cycle lanes.
Transcription of Mik’s audio
We need to change the way Camden works so it’s not so vehicle based. But what we need to do is make it inclusive, make it accessible..we need to make it safe for all people, especially disabled people. So..what should happen now I think is that Camden should reassess its planning.
We want to be involved. Ask us where to put cycle lanes. Let’s get cyclists and disabled people together. Let’s get people like Wheels for Wellbeing, Transport for All involved and then we can have a real discussion so that Camden can stop having this knee-jerk response to this and lead the way.
Click below to watch Mik’s video on cycle lanes.
Transcription of Mik’s video
Well I’ve just popped out in Camden and as you can see there’s lots of work being done around installing cycle lanes and other kind of infrastructure. The only problem is I can’t see any indication that anything’s being done to make any of it inclusive. We’re seeing bus bypasses..There’s one going in here despite the fact that they are very problematic around access.
Some of the cycle lanes are sort of ok width-wise but let’s face it..I mean I’ll tell you what I’m just going to wheel into this set up cycle lane now and I’ll show you the problem. Here is a cycle lane..See the width? There’s my wheel there and there’s my wheel there. So you’ve only really got room for one cycle. Now that’s kind of ok if they were all that width but they aren’t. And that’s the problem.
There’s some further down Camden High Street that are much narrower. I mean you know, the poor guys working on it..they should be given the right instructions. Disabled people and all cyclists should be getting good quality infrastructure and instead what we’re getting is this rolled out rushed stuff and I’m really concerned about this. I’m just about to go and have a photo with the Ham and High because I’m being interviewed about the new Haverstock Hill cycle lane and again..very little thinking around inclusion. So please, Camden Council stop! Don’t just do consulting online. Do proper consultation! Meet people like me who know how to make it work.
Isabelle Clement, Wheels for Wellbeing
Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing, a Lambeth-based DPO that promotes cycling among disabled people, said: “As an organisation we are supportive of the street scape changes on the one hand because whatever makes cycling safer for any cyclist makes it safer for disabled cyclists and there’s a big need for that.
“However, we’re also a disabled people’s organisation and we’re very aware that if the changes are not done with due regard to disabled people’s access needs, that will have a negative impact on non-cycling disabled people.”
She added: “Disabled people are the people who are the most in need of being able to go out safely again after lockdown and if the environment is not changed fully accessibly, then disabled people could be the most excluded yet again.”
According to Clement, who lives and works in Lambeth, the key problem is that the government has asked local authorities to make changes that help people avoid using cars and public transport but has failed to give them a “quick guide” on how to do it in an accessible way.
This has led to some inaccessible features being put in place in Lambeth and other parts of the country.
Clement said: “There is no intrinsic clash between disabled people and cycling infrastructure, provided it is done with the right thinking in mind.”
She said that, as long as the new infrastructure for cyclists – which she calls mobility infrastructure – is wide, flat and smooth it can also benefit mobility scooters and many wheelchair-users, and can de-clutter pavements.
These quotes from Isabelle are taken from a Disability News Service report on the impact on the Covid-19 streetscape changes on Disabled people. To read the full report click here.
To watch part of Isabelle’s presentation to Camden Disability Action’s Street Access Co-production Team on how to make active travel changes accessible to Disabled people, click here.