Walking and wheeling not equitable

A survey of people with disability in England found that getting out and about in their neighbourhood difficult if not impossible. Two not-for-profit organisations ran a six month inquiry which revealed waking and wheeling is not equitable for all. Similar experiences have been identified in Australia. Footpaths and time to cross the road feature strongly.

“We believe everyone should have the right to walk or wheel around our neighbourhoods with ease, independence and confidence.”

Front cover of the report on walking and wheeling. It shows people with various mobility devices walking along a neighbourhood street.

Transport accessibility gap

Physical barriers to wheeling and walking are only part of the issue. Participants said they are afraid of negative comments from other people when walking or wheeling. Not having the right mobility aid was also an barrier to traveling safely and independently.

Disabled people take 38% fewer trips across all modes of transport than non-disabled people.  This pattern is similar for walking and wheeling. In England, for example, disabled people take 30% fewer walking trips than non-disabled people. ”

Image from the report showing a man in a wheelchair and a woman walking across a zebra crossing.

What to do about it?

The Executive Summary of the report lists 9 solutions with recommendations. First on the list is to involve people with disability in walking and wheeling policy and practice. Dedicated and well maintained footpaths are another key feature for improvements.

“It’s very frustrating seeing beautiful smooth roads for cars whilst walking on pavement surfaces that are falling apart.” Workshop participant

Image from the report showing a broken footpath. The text reads, Create dedicated pavement funding to maintain and improve pavements.

Footpath clutter, bollards, outdoor dining, and electric vehicle chargers need to be managed better. Some people don’t leave their homes on garbage collection days. Then comes the issue of interacting with cycle paths and cyclists. More formal crossings, kerb ramps and tactile paving would encourage them to walk or wheel more.

We need more time to cross the road

Transport engineers use a standard walking speed to time traffic signals at I.2m per second. UK transport guidance updated this to 1.0m per second but this is still to quick for slow walkers and people wheeling. This makes people feel unsafe and limits their ability to get out and about. Research cited by Australian researchers found that people using a cane or crutch walked 0.8m per second and people using a walker 0.63m per second.

The blog article with an overview is titled, Disabled Citizens’ Inquiry: Giving disabled people a voice in walking and wheeling policy and practice. You can also download the Executive Summary and the Full Report of the Inquiry. The report comes in alternative formats too.

Although this is report is based on English conditions, the findings support other research in Australia and elsewhere. The section on Transportation on this website has more.

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