More on the ongoing saga of East Street in Horsham.
I wrote back in October about opposition to the pedestrianisation of this increasingly popular and thriving street in the town centre during the main hours of the day. That article is a useful summary of the history of the street over the last couple of years, and also about the main issues – principally that a handful of people still want to continue driving and parking on the street, at all times.
In December another article appeared in the local paper setting out the opinions of one of these opponents.
A disabled man with severe mobility issues feels the council has effectively segregated a Horsham street by forcing through pedestrianisation.
When the barriers are up at the end of East Street, disabled drivers are unable to access the parking bay outside Ask specifically designated for blue-badge holders, such as Mr Owles, who takes 26 tablets a day, including 18 painkillers, and cannot walk long distances.
“What they have done is segregated people out of East Street,” he said. “They’re just riding roughshod over everybody, with no consideration for the disabled.”
Just as with the article that appeared in the paper in October, the opponent of pedestrianisation is claiming that it is unfair to disabled people to prevent them parking in the bays in East Street (and in Market Square, which is only accessible from East Street). I won’t re-hash the reasons why I think this is incorrect; refer to my previous piece if you so wish.
What I would say here is that there are many, many streets and areas of Horsham that are not accessible by car. People who are disabled – and quite clearly their needs should be taken very seriously indeed – still manage to access these shops, by means other than the private motor vehicle. Here are some of those areas.
And finally, East Street and Market Square – the areas that are now pedestrianised during the day, a pedestrianisation which is being opposed. As you can see, there are huge areas of the town that are already completely inaccessible by motor vehicle. Indeed, the vast majority of the town’s shops are in fully pedestrianised areas.
Disabled people are not ‘banned’ or ‘segregated’ from these shops. They simply have to access them by means other than the private motor car. While cars are plainly a very important way of allowing disabled people to make longer trips into town, they cannot be the sole mode of transport for disabled people. If it was, we could have to completely redesign almost every aspect of our streets, our buildings, and our infrastructure to make them accessible by motor vehicle, which is obviously completely absurd.
Great steps have been made in recent years towards making public transport and public buildings much more accessible for disabled people. Train stations increasingly have step-free access. Buses and trains are now accessible in wheelchairs – something that even 20 years ago was quite rare, at least where I live. These are obviously necessary improvements. However, these changes have been made to allow wheelchair access, and not private car access. You can’t drive into public buildings. You can’t drive through airports. These parts of journeys have to be made by other means.
I don’t think it would be reasonable for the people objecting to the part-pedestrianisation of East Street to claim they have been ‘banned’ from airports, or from train stations, or from office blocks, or ‘segregated’ from large department stores, simply because they can’t drive into them or around them. The private car is an unwieldy way for disabled people to convey themselves in these kinds of spaces, and we quite rightly expect them to use smaller motorised vehicles, like mobility scooters, or powered wheelchairs. Precisely the same logic applies (or should apply) on pedestrianised streets.
David Moore of the Horsham Society has made much the same argument I have been making for some time about East Street in a comment piece in the latest West Sussex County Times – namely that parking is available nearby, and that other more ‘inaccessible’ (by car, of course) streets in Horsham are not subject to these kinds of complaints.
The pedestrianisation of East Street between 10.30 and 16.30 has been an unmitigated success. It’s been wonderful to be able to walk down the street without being hooted at by a lorry or a car. It’s been terrific not to have to inhale the exhaust fumes from passing or parked vehicles. The vast majority of the people of Horsham continue to support the exclusion of vehicles from the street.
[Obviously] … we have to consider access for people with disabilities. Fortunately, there are significant numbers of parking spaces for Blue Badge holders in the vicinity of East Street, such as in the Denne Road and Piries Place car parks. Parking is also usually available on single or double yellow lines for up to three hours and this can be seen, for example, in the regular use of the Causeway during the day by Blue Badge holders.
So it’s difficult to understand why there should be a need for parking by Blue Badge holders in a relatively short street such as East Street when there’s no such facility available to them in the pedestrianised and much longer West Street.
I am pleased to see that the council are also resistant to calls to reopen the street to motor vehicles. They can see what a difference it has made to businesses on the street, and to the experience of pedestrians.
The East Street matter is now going to a public inquiry, costing the council some £25,000. I am sad that it is taking this much money to settle what is quite obviously a bogus issue; the only hope is that the inquiry will finally put an end to these complaints.
UPDATE - I forgot to include this wonderful video from Mark Wagenbuur, showing how Dutch towns and cities are highly accessible for those with disabilities, without using private motor cars. (His post on the subject is here).