York Access Control Barrier Review

Barriers on cycle routes are not unique to York, but York seems to have more than its fair share, 800 and counting: that’s not far off 1 for every 200 people in York, and more than 2 for every pub. After the publication of LTN 1/20 and Inclusive Mobility guidance from the DfT and some recent action, the city council has commissioned consultants Transport Initiatives to construct policy in this space and improve accessibility. Campaign member Jamie attended the first stakeholder meeting and gives us his update.

On Tuesday 7th February I attended the first meeting at the friends meeting house. The meeting was well attended by a mixture of stakeholders and officers. Ken Spence led the meeting and made clear the expectations on the council due to both recent transport legislation and not-so-recent equality law. It was quite something to hear such a clear recommendation being made to the council. We then broke into groups and looked at a number of barriers in York, by which point the room was recommending the removal of virtually all the barriers examined. 

The goal here is to prioritise the barriers for removal – there are so many that the costs are not insignificant – and to put in clear policy to avoid them being put in in the first place. The reasons given for many barriers being put in was typically a) to address illegal or unwanted behaviour, b) safety or, c) security.

In actual fact the evidence for them achieving these things is weak to non-existent and they can even make them worse, in addition to the inequality of access they cause.

In fact the real reasons are:
a) lack of policy, b) failure to quantify the problem, c) a presumption that it will have no adverse impacts, and d) a belief that it will work. I would add to that e) political expediency: it is a visual symbol of something having been done.

Ultimately, a barrier should only be used for real, established, persistent and significant problems, and then only as a last resort, not a first response. Changing the culture of barriers-by-default will take time, especially when they sit so high on local politicians list of things they can do. 

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