With Sustrans wanting to improve its National Cycle Network including through the removal of discriminatory obstructions that hinder legitimate access, it would be nice if Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough Council would get on board with improving the sections of routes that it controls. Too many obstructions exist on the likes of Weddington Walk, Wembrook Trail, and access to the Coventry Canal.
Barriers such as chicane fencing (or similar), narrow bollards, K-frames etc all cause problems. Some may find them a minor inconvenience but others – including those who ride “non-standard” cycles, who perhaps tow a trailer or tagalong cycle for a young child, who find it physically difficult to dismount and contort a cycle through awkward spaces – can find the restrictions a major obstacle, even impossible to pass. Where there is no reasonable alternative for access these barriers can be classed as discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010.
Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, and any other authority who has control over such access restrictions to legal routes, should be proactive and begin the process of removing these barriers. Where appropriate, limited restrictions such as a bollard with wide straight-through spacing can be installed to prevent access by drivers, but that must be the extent of any access limitations.
Councils and police forces will state reasons such as illegal motorcycle access as justification for these access restrictions, but that is not a reason for causing difficulties to legitimate users – this needs enforcement action to deal with the problem. Any restriction that adequately allows all users to pass without hindrance will also permit motorcycles to pass. In the case of Nuneaton, many routes are inconsistently “protected” by barriers where some access points are blocked, but others are wide open.
In the absence of councils being proactive, anybody who finds themselves hindered by these barriers should formally report the problem. Disabled people who cannot comfortably and safely pass barriers as easily as a person who is not disabled may wish to escalate the matter – Twitter user, Heavy Metal Handcyclist (@CrippledCyclist) has helpfully created a template Freedom of Information Act Request that can be sent to councils questioning the presence of the barriers, their reasoning for their existence, and asking how they expect users to navigate past them, whilst also reminding authorities of their legal obligations under the Equality Act. This can used as a precursor to legal action.
People should kick up a fuss about these barriers. They largely serve no legitimate purpose and need to be removed from walking and cycling routes. They may be seen as an easy to way to deal with a perceived problem, but this is the wrong solution.