I wrote the piece above with Andrew Ellson of the Times, which you can read here, looking at the effect of the hasty implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) on disabled Londoners.
I spoke to disabled peoples’ organisations and charities and also to individual disabled Londoners across a number of the LTNs – Islington (where I live in Finsbury Park), Ealing, Greenwich, Lewisham and Waltham Forest (in many ways the standard bearer for the schemes).
Many of the disabled people I spoke to stressed their concerns around air pollution and were fully supportive of measures to reduce air pollution and improve the built environment. They were, however, critical of councils using emergency Covid-19 powers to rush through schemes where disability needs were not considered, as they would have been during any other scheme due to the Equality Act.
This is what people had to say. I’ve removed peoples’ surnames although they provided them.
GREENWICH – JOE
“I know several disabled and elderly people who have been affected by LTNs in my borough, Greenwich, and am also disabled myself, with several ‘invisible’ disabilities. Greenwich have implemented LTNs with bollards despite objections made by residents and emergency services.
They are now looking to introduce several more LTNs, which would mean every single hill in Greenwich (and they’re pretty steep) except one, which is already adversely affected by current LTNs, would be closed to those requiring a vehicle to travel. No exemptions will be made for Blue Badge holders as stated on the council’s website. Instead, literature has suggested people either walk, cycle, scoot or ‘wheel’.
The irony is, the council recently unveiled a new Equality Charter.
So far, the council have refused to listen to our views. A letter sent to the leader of the council on 28 March signed on behalf of 2,500 residents, requesting an online meeting between the leader of the council and a handpicked number of disabled and elderly people, as well as carers across the borough, has been ignored.”
WALTHAM FOREST – CHARLES
“I’ve been shielding in my flat for months now, and am likely to remain so after the lockdown finishes. Getting out to the rest of Walthamstow and beyond is now much harder and more painful than it was before. The nearest access to the main road by car is shut and access by road to the sports field is shut. I understand the appeal of pedestrianising cities and discouraging cars, and the reasons behind it, I was able-bodied once. So many places disabled people won’t realistically be able to go now, with roads closed and the car park in the marshes being closed soon. In a life that was already restricted it is depressing.
When I first came to Walthamstow in 2010 it wasn’t too bad – as a disabled driver I could get
to most of the city. Since then more and more of the area has been made off-limits to cars. And
so, to me”
EALING – JANE
I am the parent of child with autism and fought for special educational needs transport and blue badge holders to get exemption to access the LTN. This impacted my son’s journey by taxi to special school badly. No environmental impact assessment has been conducted for this LTN. SEN taxi drivers are personally liable for the fines and the combination of this and their unpaid time stuck in traffic caused many to quit. The Director of the public realm in Lewisham (who has responsibility for issuing the exemptions) told me that my son’s firm gained exemption. However, my son’s driver has been unable to confirm this with his firm.
The Director of the public realm told me in an email that they have allowed exemption for 20 SEN vehicles through the measures and named 5 firms which have exemption. That would only be 4 cars per firm and firms like my son’s firm are pretty big operations. I doubt that 20 vehicles covers all the SEN vehicles who need exemption. A big problem has been the council’s lack of communication. Blue Badge holders have had to find out about their eligibility to apply for exemption through social media.
LORNA – EALING
I have yet to follow up with the four cases Lorna sent me in detail, but Ealing has allowed Blue Badge holders through to the LTN in which they live. However, she says: “There are many issues with this as there are many blue badge holders who do not drive but rely on Taxis and now have to pay much more expensive fares. Others rely on family to drive them around. It makes it very unequal and unfair.”
ISLINGTON – EXTRA CASES
I used the case of one Islington resident in the article (for clarity, I did not know the resident before interviewing her). This is a round-up of other cases I was told about by local people and Disability Action in Islington (DAII).
One daughter of a 90 year old man was in tears after he wet himself in the car as the journey was very delayed by the LTN; another parent with a 18 year old son with Down Syndrome had to let him urinate by the side of the road as they got stuck in traffic. He then got called a ‘paedo’ by people who saw him. Another woman has a mother with Parkinsons who lives near her. She used to pop by and see her most days by car and take her children as well. This is now extremely difficult to do, combining with a stressful job with long hours in public service.
Other cases from DAII include:
• An elderly man with diabetes said he is now scared to go shopping on Holloway Road
as he will get stuck in traffic and miss the time for his insulin injection.
• A man with Parkinson’s said he was stuck in traffic going to Morrison’s for so long that
he wet himself in his wife’s car.
• A lady with arthritis says she is now spending 45 minutes in the car to visit her elderly
mother for what used to be a 5-minute journey.
• A man with a visual impairment is complaining of the increased number of scooters
and cycles now using the pavement to avoid the traffic jams.