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Measures needed to enable disabled people to access local streets, inquiry finds

08 March 2023


A Disabled Citizens’ Inquiry has drawn up a set of solutions designed to make cycling and walking more inclusive. The solutions include a ban on pavement parking, improving walking and wheeling crossing points across roads and cycle paths and improving integration of walking and wheeling with public transport. 

The inquiry is led by the charity Sustrans and the disabled-led group Transport for All, and is being funded the national disability charity Motability.

The inquiry held four two-day workshops with disabled people across the UK. Disabled people shared their experiences, explored barriers on the street locally, and worked together to suggest and design solutions for change.

The solutions were then tested and refined with practitioners from the transport sector and disability organisations across the UK. 

Finally, the solutions that disabled people had developed were tested with the wider public through an independent representative survey of disabled people living across the UK.

The solutions include:

Prohibiting pavement parking to make communities more accessible

Creation of a long-term dedicated pavement fund to improve and maintain pavements

• Ensuring disabled people can be within walking or wheeling distance of services and amenities by creating communities with accessible services close to where people live through better planning.

• Make wayfinding and journey planning tools work for disabled people

The report states that disabled people have been largely overlooked in discussions about the 20-minute neighbourhood. “Disabled participants told us they do not have the same choices. They may walk or wheel more slowly or not be able to walk or wheel as far as non-disabled people. Furthermore, many walking or wheeling routes and destinations are inaccessible making journey times longer. This needs to be better considered by transport and urban planners.”

Walking and wheeling should be the “most equitable mode of travel across the UK”, says the inquiry. “Everyone should have the freedom to walk or wheel independently and enjoy being out and about in their neighbourhood, feeling safe and comfortable.”

Local and national governments, the third sector and businesses must “work together to make walking and wheeling inclusive and unlock the huge benefits for society, the economy and the environment”.

Disabled people face greater barriers to travel than non-disabled people, resulting in disabled people taking 38% fewer trips than non-disabled people across all modes of transport, the report says. 

This pattern is also reflected in walking and wheeling, said the inquiry. It found that in 2021, disabled people in England took 30% fewer walking trips than non-disabled people. “A key reason for this gap is our streets are often inaccessible and unsafe for disabled people to navigate.

“This can prevent disabled people accessing what they need, from essentials like healthcare and food, opportunities in work and education, and social benefits like community and green space. In addition, disabled people often face greater risk of safety issues when using inadequate pavements.”

Xavier Brice, Sustrans’ CEO, said: “Our report clearly demonstrates that understanding the barriers disabled people experience getting around their neighbourhoods is imperative in creating an equitable society.

“Putting disabled people at the centre of discussions about how we plan and create spaces where we can all move around easily and safely is vital.

“The UK government must listen and take action to create places planned around people, not cars.”

He added: "In 2020, the DfT consulted on pavement parking. Three years later, nothing has changed. Everyone is equally entitled to rely on safe and inclusive pavements and now is the time to act.”

Disabled Citizens Enquiry

Traffic Management Officer – Technical Specialist x2
Bristol City Council
Based at 100 Temple Street, Bristol, BS1 6AG
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Senior Transport Planner
London Borough of Hounslow
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Senior Transport Planner
London Borough of Hounslow
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