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.

Advertisements

Efficiency, you said?

1494980380306

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 inĀ  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.

DSC01918

 

Need permission

In Auckland, in the busy/trendy Newmarket neighborhood, with bunches of shops and restaurants, you have free parking*, and as a pedestrian, you need to ask the permission to cross the parking entrance/exit! This is also meters from the light rail station but obviously traffic still has right of way.

DSC01945

* Of course, there’s no such thing as free parking, it has land, building, maintenance and operation costs, that need to be covered by someone. And this someone is often everyone, through taxes. So if you don’t drive, you are basically subsidizing those who do!

Donald Shoup became a rockstar studying parking and its perverse effects (yes that’s possible!), highly recommended reading. Here you’ll find his brilliant free dessert analogy and info about his publications.

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)

Speed vs humans

speeds-consequences

The evidence is over-whelming: speed kills. All residential areas, everywhere, should have max speed limit 30Kph/20Mph or less. No excuses. – Gil Penalosa

And lower speeds also allow people to cross the street and interact more easily, and provide environments that feel safer for cycling (and again, accessing the school, shop, or friends’ house).