People should be able to easily access places
Rosemary Hill, who runs the project, has a video of a Cycling 4 All colleague, who has significant disabilities, trying and failing to ride his long tricycle through a set of metal gates at Rother Valley Country Park.
“It’s not right,” said Rosemary. “People should be able to easily access places.” The barriers at Rother Valley, like many more around South Yorkshire, were originally installed because planners feared illegal off road motorcyclists, or car drivers fly tipping, would try and get through. But that decision directly discriminates against people with wheelchairs, prams, mobility scooters and adapted trikes and bikes, she said.
Rosemary and colleagues met with Rotherham Council who are now trying to improve access to Rother Valley for people with larger than usual cycles and wheelchair users. And Senior Transport Planner at Sheffield Council, Paul Sullivan, is doing his best to get rid of these barriers in Sheffield too. One route from Rother Valley to the Manor had 20 barriers in the space of about 10km.
“So you’d have to get off your bike and get on again about every 500 metres,” he said, adding that he's currently about three quarters of the way though getting rid of the blockages on that route. One of the city’s least known walking and cycling travel routes is the Blackburn Valley, a flat tree lined trail that takes you from Ecclesfield, Shiregreen or Chapeltown to the Meadowhall travel hub.
But at the Meadowhall end (and at several access points in the middle) there are ‘K frame’ barriers which mean you can’t get through with anything other than a standard two wheeled bicycle. Cargo bikes for business deliveries can enter the route from north west Sheffield, but are barred at Meadowhall by the K frames. “Barriers. It’s in the name, isn’t it?” said Paul Sullivan. “Putting barriers in the way of people wanting to make journeys is discriminatory.”
He explained that A frames and K frame barriers on trails and travel routes were often put in years ago, theoretically to allow cyclists to get through, but prevent illegal motorcycling. But they never really worked, Paul said, because motorcyclists could always find another way onto the route if they really wanted to. Nowadays, he said, it’s recognised that a little targeted policing along with more people simply walking, wheeling or cycling on the trail is the best deterrent to anti social off road motorcycling, because no motor bike rider really wants to be weaving in and out of crowds of people.
Rosemary Hill says new bikes and trikes with motors can be built to suit people with all kinds of disabilities. One of her friends tries to ride a mobility scooter to take part in the cycling sessions at Hillsborough, but because of barriers on his off road route, the journey takes him half an hour longer than it should do, and along busier roads. “So that’s frustrating and also dangerous,” Rosemary says. “It means he’s not as independent as he could be, so that’s discrimination.”
Paul Sullivan wants to get rid of most of these barriers in Sheffield, when funding allows, and after discussions with local councillors and community groups has removed or adjusted 19 so far. Funding from sustainable transport charity Sustrans will help remove most of the Blackburn Valley route barriers soon, and Paul also hopes there’ll be removals at Stradbroke, Richmond and possibly Shirebrook before too long, along with more discussion about the bridleway barrier near Forge Dam.
He adds that if you encounter a barrier to independent travel, you can contact his team at: [email protected]