So close, so unreachable

A banal message received from a friend, about meeting for dinner:

Hamiltoon-Cambridge-need-a-ride

The tricky trip is Cambridge-Hamilton East, NZ, 20 km.

Cambridge is a small town (20,000 residents), located near Hamilton, 150,000, the regional hub where you can find a diversity of jobs as well as the main hospital, universities, a museum, theaters or shopping centers. The connection between the two towns is obvious, for work, education, shopping, dining out, you name it. Yet, the bus service runs only 7 times per day, on week days, and the time table is obviously built for school kids. On week-ends, there is only 3 trips Cambridge-Hamilton, 4 trips back.

So if you’ve missed your 7.35 bus, you will be there around 10. And if you want to leave Hamilton after 5.15 pm, well you can’t (this is for the week days, on week-ends it’s 4.15).

Without a car, you will have to beg for a ride, or miss opportunities. I doubt you can even study in Hamilton whilst living in Cambridge, given the early last departures (not to mention the loss of social life). You need a car, and if you can’t drive or can’t afford it you miss out. That is called severance, or barrier effect, or exclusion.

Imagine an efficient public transport link, the kind that would be a real alternative. Running from early in the morning to late in the night, allowing you to get where you need to and come back, and doing it with a satisfying travel time. Imagine a service that is actually more efficient than driving, and that is therefore chosen. Less single-occupancy vehicles on the road, less congestion, less wasted time, less spending on new roads, less spending for the users, less crashes, less deaths and injuries, less severance, more opportunities to access whatever you need or want to access, more participation in the society, better inclusion, better outcomes for all.

This is not an utopian vision. This is what towns around the world do, because it works for the people and for the local and national economies.

Stories of disabled people in modern Britain

Due to a severe lack of accessible housing, Alex has to live in a flat that is not accessible for her. “Alex’s life has been drastically affected by a series of Tory cuts, reforms and changes to disability benefits and a growing crisis in social care and housing. This is the story of people living and working with disabilities in modern Britain.”

Stephen and Elaine are disabled and rely solely on Stephen’s income. But with the impending removal of his subsidised Motability car, he will have no way of getting to work.” No accessible bus. “If I can’t work, where is my dignity?”

And in your area? Do you know how the disabled people are treated? Do you know if they have the same opportunities, no matter their handicap? If not, why not write your MP about it?

Disabled people’s fight for basic rights

Screenshot from 2017-05-21 20-11-19

In Bolivia, a group of disabled people crossed the Andes in 35 days (!) to reclaim basic rights. They have undertaken this epic wheelchair journey with almost no resources, camping along the way, as a last resort action for their basic rights. They were welcomed with barricades, pepper spray and water cannons. The Guardian presented their fight in a short documentary, The Fight.

Reclaiming basic rights obviously made me think of all the discriminations they suffer even in the developed countries like New Zealand, when the built environment doesn’t allow them to cross the road or take the bus, puts them at danger, and (subsequently) limits their possibilities regarding education, work, social life, or leisure.

New Zealand’s Government Policy Strategy (GPS) notes, at the end of the evidence base (points 277-9), that the footpath maintenance is not funded from the national transport fund, and that such a funding would need to know what the footpaths condition looks like, which is not the case. It is also noted that without this information, we can’t know whether footpath condition limits access by the elderly or those with disability (point 278). No measure for that was included in the submitted draft.

Efficiency, you said?

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In Auckland, the $30 million Te Atatu Rd corridor project was designed with the objective to “improve efficiency and safety” for an estimated 38,000 vehicles per day.

Improving for the cars, you say, in a city already choked by traffic? As if it was not bad enough, the design shows:

  1. a total lack of awareness of the pedestrians’ needs – all the pedestrians, including walking aid or wheelchair users, children buggy pushers, or just a fit 20-y-old temporarily on crutches
  2. 0 consideration for the pedestrian design guidelines
  3. a clear vision of who has the priority, on these “intersections”
  4. a carriageway design coming straight from the 60s, with a wide shoulder and a stripped median (approx. 5 m of gauge lost)

Thirty millions. Built to last… And designed so that a future retrofit of the footpaths will require demolishing the existing ones, and putting the carriageway on a well-deserved diet.

It’s pretty tragic.

Dangerous by design

dangerous-by-design-T4America

Pedestrian fatalities are stagnating in US, as they are in NZ. Bridget Burdett, Accessibility Specialist and Principal Researcher at TDG, reminded the fact lately, saying that “whatever we are doing, we are doing it wrong”.

The 2 countries are comparable by a strongly car-oriented environment. In the US, some 4,600 people die every year while walking, struck and killed by a driver. The inequity is strong, with poor communities experiencing comparatively more dangerous environments, relying more on walking as a cheap transport mode, but also having lower rates of insurance coverage, and suffering therefore higher consequences of crashes.

People walk along these roads despite the clear safety risk. This is not user error. Rather, it is a sign that these streets are failing to adequately meet the needs of everyone in  community.

Dangerous by Design 2016 is Smart Growth America’s review of the epidemic of crashes involving pedestrians, in the US, and the cities’ and states’ action.

Without surprise, the recommendation is to (finally) take pedestrians into account, in the planning, design, and redesign. On major arterial roads (NZ has a lot of them, cutting through towns, neighborhoods and communities), they recommend better footpaths, better and safer crossings, and lower speeds.

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All equal?

4x4-vs-ped-TarasGrescoe-tweet

I would like to think so. Fact is, though, the left hand side moves along with a 2-t privacy bubble, possibly at speed, possibly threatening the right hand side, and possibly also using the public space and altering the environment for other users (if it was parked, and a child was to cross the street, he/she would have no visibility until stepping on the carriageway, for instance).

(Picture from unknown source)