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Road traffic experiments ‘make it harder for disabled’

Mik Scarlet appears at full council meeting

15 October, 2020 — By Richard Osley

Broadcaster Mik Scarlet

ONE of the nation’s leading disabilities campaigners told the council on Monday that traffic experiments were making people feel “less welcome”.

Broadcaster and writer Mik Scarlet appeared in front of all members to ask for a rethink on the new road layout in the backstreets of Camden Town and elsewhere.

Critics to the changes in NW1 – which include closing off a turn into Jamestown Road – say that attempts to shut down rat runs are leading to new gridlocked queues of cars.

Mr Scarlet said: “I’ve am a disabled resident of Camden Town and have been for nearly 20 years. Ever since the imposition, or the rollout, of experimental traffic orders, I’ve been feeling less welcome and less wanted in the town I have come to love.”

He added: “Fourteen per cent of Camden’s residents have an illness or a disability, and there are many other people who are older, and for those people a private car, a licensed taxi, a black cab or another kind of accessible people carrier is really the only way of getting out of the door if they want to go out. These schemes make it difficult to use those. Now is not the time to be giving less focus to what the Equality Act requires.  All Camden’s disabled and older communities ask is that their needs are prioritised and properly considered so that any negative impacts are mitigated.”

Camden is using the experimental orders to try and make cycling and walking easier, amid concerns that people will simply turn to their cars as use of public transport falls during the Covid outbreak.

On other schemes, Mr Scarlet appealed for new cycle lanes to have breaks so that ramps into vehicles could still be used. He also referenced two disabled friends who could only go out using taxis but were now facing bigger costs. “To get anywhere north of Camden High Street, they now have a much longer journey,” he said.  “Both of them cannot work, they are on benefits, so they are at the bottom of the financial pile – but now they’re expected to pay more for the same journey.”

He added: “Can we have mitigation explored? These schemes are all under review, they’re all nebulous at the moment. We can change them and make them work, so that they’re not excluding some.”

Environment chief Councillor Adam Harrison said: “We are not creating zones which are entirely car free or prevent car journeys. We are in a situation where we want to keep the roads as freely moving as possible. We need much less traffic on the roads for a whole variety of reasons, whether it’s air quality, whether it’s carbon, but also because we need to be prioritising people who are only able to travel by car.

“We need to be making sure that they are not getting stuck in traffic. Given these are trials and we are moving quickly, we’re trying to be flexible to where we can make changes if need be. Let me give the assurance that all current schemes are undergoing equalities impact assessments so we’re able to understand what the impacts on different groups may be.”

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