Kensington Meadows: Designing out disabled access

Bath and North East Somerset announced consultation on the Kensington Meadows, an area of Bath that runs parallel to London Road between the road and the river. What is clear is that they asked the current users of the meadows what they wanted. People that avoid the meadows due to being physically unable to use the meadows really got short shrift.

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The route is identified in the Council’s Proposed Strategic Cycle Network for Bath: (“London Road” Lime Green)

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And was even identified as part of the work Cycle Bath did as part of the Cycle City Ambition Grant East of Bath Scheme. At the time there was a proposal for a bridge over to the pools:

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But what is clear from the current proposed design and the supporting documentation is that there is a real problem with the Social Model of Disability within the council. This states:

The social model of disability is a way of viewing the world, developed by disabled people.

The model says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference. Barriers can be physical, like buildings not having accessible toilets. Or they can be caused by people’s attitudes to difference, like assuming disabled people can’t do certain things.

The social model helps us recognise barriers that make life harder for disabled people. Removing these barriers creates equality and offers disabled people more independence, choice and control.

So looking at the design that the council are proposing, on a wet winter’s day, after a week of rain, the only point of access for somebody in a wheelchair is from Morrison’s End or Grosvenor Bridge. The grass paths would be impossible to navigate. I’ve highlighted the only accessible route in black.

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Why this is key is to look at how Kensington Meadows sits within the communities and is a key active travel corridor.

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It is clear is that when you identify those routes that somebody in a wheelchair could use to access the meadows, you very quickly realise that the proposal excludes them. If you live in Larkhall and use a wheelchair, mobility scooter, or even a push chair you will not be using Kensington Meadows in the winter time.

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SOLUTION

The solution is to make all proposed grass paths into surfaced paths as well, providing good multiple routes through the meadows, removing conflict, and making it all accessible.

If budget is an issue, then the proposed grass paths should become the surfaced paths, retaining the current path as a grass path as this creates better connections to local communities.

Surface should be wheel friendly in all weather conditions (smooth asphalt or spray and chip).

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Stop the hate, you’re hurting the vulnerable

Can we PLEASE stop it with the anti-disabled rhetoric wrapped up as a concern about speeding cyclists and needing to ‘design out’ that behaviour. The reality is that currently I can grab a good mountain bike and tear across that dog poo laden field at pretty much any speed I want to. I can ride at any speed along the Two Tunnels. What can’t happen is have a friend in a wheelchair bike join me, or even somebody using a mobility scooter.

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Make the surfaced paths wide (4m+) to enable people to get around each other comfortably.. Build them from smooth asphalt. Use a spay and chip if you want but this just makes it hard going for anyone in a manual wheelchair but please do not try and install barriers or a surface that will ‘slow’ down somebody on a mountain bike. It simply does not work.

Anybody having an issue with this should first consult Wheels For Wellbeing’s excellent Guide to Inclusive Cycling Enough with the disabled hatred.

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Addendum [3rd of Dec]: The good bits

On reflection, this article comes across as highly critical of one specific aspect of the proposed design. It is important that this is addressed as the proposed design will be used as part of a bid process to source money from LEP/WECA/Bath City Forum and if this is not fixed now, then they “won’t have the money in the bid” to fix it post winning money.

However it is also important to recognise that what is proposed is so so so much better than what can really only be described as a barren wasteland used as a dog toilet. The design and thought that has gone into this is really good, but it simply needs tweaking to make it inclusive and accessible.

 

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