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Guidance is intended to encourage Welsh local authorities to prioritise walking and cycling for short journeys

New guidance which could see cyclists allowed to use pedestrian areas in Wales has been criticised by a group of charities who say such a change may prove dangerous for disabled people.

The Design Guidance for the Active Travel (Wales) Act 2013 sets out how authorities in Wales should plan and design walking and cycling routes. The aim is to prioritise walking and cycling for short journeys.

However, the section of the guidelines relating to what are referred to as ‘vehicle restricted areas’ (VRAs) has caused controversy. Guide Dogs Cymru, Disability Wales, RNIB Cymru and Wales Council of the Blind say that allowing cyclists in busy pedestrianised areas could increase collisions and the chance of injury.

Andrea Gordon, Engagement Manager for Guide Dogs Cymru, said:

“We cannot support the current proposal because it puts people at risk. We have significant concerns about cycling in busy pedestrianised areas and believe the proposed guidance would endanger disabled and older people and young children.”

Guide Dogs Cymru were involved in the consultation process and put forward alternative ways of providing inclusive access for cyclists and disabled people. Gordon feels there has been a lack of compromise and that the guidance is therefore questionable.

“There is a legal requirement for an Equality Impact Assessment to be conducted before guidance can be implemented. Therefore, we believe a policy which fails to take the safety and freedom of blind and partially sighted people and other disabled people into account could be challenged under the Equality Act.”

Ceri Jackson, the director of RNIB Cymru, expressed similar sentiments and feels that the needs of blind and partially sighted people in VRAs have been ignored.

The guidance was announced by Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Ken Skates, who feels it serves an important purpose.

“We are committed to giving people better opportunities to walk and cycle, making them more active and healthier as a result. This also brings added benefits to the environment and will reduce the traffic on our roads.

“This document is an important part of our vision for more active travel. It provides the information and support needed for authorities in Wales to get the work of planning and designing suitable walking and cycling routes underway.”

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said that efforts had been made to achieve a balance between allowing cycling within pedestrianised areas while also protecting the safety of disabled people. "This isn’t the end of the process and our guidance requires local authorities to consult at the design scheme stage and consider carefully the safety both of cyclists and disabled pedestrians.”

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17 comments

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CarlosFerreiro [121 posts] 2 years ago
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Don't allow bikes in pedestrian areas - design car free areas so that they are suitable for pedestrians and for cyclists.

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don simon [1325 posts] 2 years ago
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Finally someone is calling for segregated cycling paths. Every day we're moving towards the Dutch model.

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Username [219 posts] 2 years ago
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don simon wrote:

Finally someone is calling for segregated cycling paths. Every day we're moving towards the Dutch model.

Yes (good), but a glacial pace (bad).

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sam_smith [75 posts] 2 years ago
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Haven't the RNIB already been called out on their questionable beliefs around cycling a while back and yet they still persist with this anti-cycles rhetoric.  14

For those foolish enough to believe this will lead to exclusive cycle paths dream on. The chances are when road space is at a premium, the cyclist will be either banned or forced to mix it up with traffic as usual. Not enough local councillors and therefore local councils see value in providing good cycling facilities.  102

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johndonnelly [81 posts] 2 years ago
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We're moving comparatively fast, and near silently. So I can see that we're something a blind person would worry about. I also believe that an unquantifiable worry will get amplified disproportionately. So I have some sympathy for the individuals in this difficult situation, and its right for the charity to raise those concerns.

I hope though that they are not the only concerns listened to by the council. They won't have done a fair job if we see cyclists needs squeezed out by a larger pressure of motorists on one side, and a smaller charity lobby group on the other.

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rxpell [50 posts] 2 years ago
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Unless there is a specific prohibition in force, you can legally cycle on the pavements in Queensland, Australia. There isn't carnage and cyclists aren't killing pedestrians on a daily basis if ever - it takes a lot of getting used to as a cyclist as its such an alien concept for a non-Queenslander. (Queensland also introduced a 3 ft minimum passing distance rule this year).

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ibike [165 posts] 2 years ago
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“Prioritising cycling” means providing high quality routes that everybody can use (8 to 80, the less-able), not sweeping everyone who isn’t in a car off the road.
This conflict is entirely manufactured by the decision not to provide for people on bikes, who have no quarrel with blind or disabled people (or anybody else for that matter).

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Slartibartfast87 [14 posts] 2 years ago
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A collision with a pedestrian is at least equally bad for a cyclist, I'm not sure why they think cyclists will crash into people at the first opportunity. It's a very bizarre belief.

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pmanc [209 posts] 2 years ago
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Instead of saying "don't allow cyclists here, there, everywhere" surely it's more helpful to point out that putting cyclists and pedestrians together in a limited space doesn't work well for either party, especially if the pedestrians are more vulnerable in some way such as having limited vision.

Seems to me that well-defined high-quality dedicated cycleways (away from the main carriageway and separate from the footway) are in everyone's interests. Hopefully Guide Dogs could help to positively promote this message?

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Edgeley [484 posts] 2 years ago
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Round these parts, the organisations for the blind are happy having buses in the pedestrian areas, but not bikes. It's a type of madness.

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mrchrispy [492 posts] 2 years ago
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i see (no pun intended) no problem with allowing bike in pedestrian zones if they ride responsibly. I regularly ride slowly through one as the alternative is a badshit crazy ring road, rather risk a run in with the plod than a middle age portly man in a big car or a powered by fairydust texting girl.

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congokid [321 posts] 2 years ago
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How do blind people (and perhaps other disabled people) cope on streets in the Netherlands?

It seems obvious not to mix people on bikes and on foot anywhere, though that appears to be the aim of many UK local councils, for pavements at least, given their fondness for 'shared space'.

According to a Guide Dogs for the Blind Association survey in 2010, blind and partially sighted people feel that Shared Space streets were 'no-go areas' because of the lack of boundaries (this may have been 'shared' as in the Exhibition Road model, as opposed to car free areas).

Perhaps the answer is if the Welsh government is keen to make a space available to both groups of user and also accommodate blind and/or other disabled people, they need to define the space for cycling by means of shallow kerbs and possibly additional differentiation by means of colour and texture.

I don't think this would place any additional burden on the blind considering they've got to find their way to a shared space area in the first place. And they like boundaries.

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ct [198 posts] 2 years ago
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Cardiff's pedestrianised areas are littered with masses of street furniture making it difficult to move even on foot at busy times...add to that the surface of choice is fairly slippery...Cardiff is in a perfect place to be epically cycle friendly, small, compact, vast swathes of pedestrian only areas that could be spacious....

At the moment the Active Travel Bill, which is great, is in its infancy but will deliver better non vehicular access to places...and Cardiff really needs less cars in the city centre.

I am really tempted to say we could create a segregated area for our blind friends, or for our wheel chair bound neighbours but that would be discriminatory I guess...next they came for those in grey trousers

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SuperG [120 posts] 2 years ago
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skull-collector... [144 posts] 2 years ago
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Very similar to that awful propaganda pushed by the blind charity in London based on a manipulated survey.

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dottigirl [800 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm a disabled person who would be excluded from vast areas if I wasn't allowed to cycle there.
I already don't fancy having to show my (intimately placed) scars to anyone who wants to have a go at me for cycling where I 'shouldn't'.
As I was explaining to someone earlier, disabled people have different needs. e.g. a brief set of steps for me is easier than a longer slope, and I can't use a wheelchair.
The stats on disabled cycling are higher than you may think:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2014/dec/11/mass-cyclin...

'This is often an ignored area, but the statistics show that 5.1% of cycle commuters in England and Wales are people whose day-to-day activities are limited in some way – that is to say they have some form of disability. While this isn’t much below the total proportion of commuters with disabilities, at 6.8%, there is a huge variation between areas for bike commuting among those with disabilities, ranging from 0.2% to 25.9%.'

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a.jumper [850 posts] 2 years ago
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This is quite right. Look how many people are killed in the rest of Europe by cyclists they routinely allow in pedestrian zones!

What do you mean, almost zero?  3