'It's essential that promoting cycling does not have an unacceptable impact on disabled people' - fears over Edinburgh Spaces for People scheme
Disabled Edinburgh residents have expressed ‘serious concerns’ over the council’s controversial Spaces for People scheme - particularly over ‘floating’ bus stops and a lack of blue badge parking provision.
Their fears have been raised by the Edinburgh Access Panel (EAP), a partnership of disabled people and disability organisations that works with the council and local businesses ‘to improve accessibility for physically disabled and sensory impaired people, predominantly in relation to the built environment’.
Edinburgh City Council is currently engaged in a city-wide consultation on whether to make its Spaces for People traffic schemes permanent, including temporary cycle lanes, pedestrianised areas and road closures.
Now, Robin Wickes, the EAP’s vice chairman, says the group has reviewed and commented on more than 100 proposed measures since last May.
Mr Wickes said: “The main issues they have commented on are to do with the new cycle lanes that have popped up all across the city.
“Because they are worried about the risk of pedestrians - particularly people with mobility difficulties - being injured in collisions with cyclists, they have objected to road layouts where pedestrians have to cross a cycle lane to get to their bus, for example on George IV Bridge, or to their parked car, for example on Comiston Road.
“The panel's other major concern is that access and parking for Edinburgh's 6500 disabled blue badge holders is being made much more difficult because blue badge parking is prohibited on the new cycle lanes.
“For many blue badge users their only option for getting about is to use their car.
“The 25 miles of cycle lanes that the council are creating are a major barrier for them because the cycle lanes prevent them from parking close enough to their destinations.
“Although we support the council's objective of motivating people to cycle where possible instead of using their cars, it's essential to make sure that promoting cycling does not have an unacceptable impact on disabled people.”
City Centre councillor and Labour vice convener of the council’s transport and environment committee, Karen Doran, said: “We appreciate Edinburgh Access Panel’s concerns and input, which is why we have involved them throughout the notification process for each Spaces for People scheme.
“We always ensure there is space for blue badge holders to park and have additionally taken on board the panel’s comments and tweaked schemes where possible to provide maximum access for those with mobility issues.
“These changes are about creating a safer environment for everyone, whether it’s a wheelchair user, a carer with a pram or any of the people in the 40% of Edinburgh households who don’t own a car and would prefer not to use public transport under current Covid guidance.
“We’ve introduced very few bus stop bypasses and floating parking spaces as part of Spaces for People but we know these measures are new for the city and that they may feel unfamiliar to some road users.
“However, all changes comply with national and local guidance and such designs are a successful feature of many cities around the world, helping to provide more options for use of space on our streets.
“We are, of course, still consulting on whether to keep any of the interventions longer term, and would like to hear from as many people as possible before the consultation closes on Sunday.
“We’ll be considering Edinburgh Access Panel’s comments carefully, along with all of the responses, before we move forward with any changes.”
The public consultation on retaining the Spaces for People measures closes on Sunday April 4, and can be accessed via the council’s website.