Newcastle moves cycle barriers that blocked disabled access


Newcastle City Council has agreed to move a set of barriers after a disabled cyclist raised concerns that the design constituted indirect discrimination as it blocked his access to a cycle path.

Alastair Fulcher wrote a 'letter before claim' to the council arguing that the installation of the barriers (pictured - credit Leigh Day Solicitors) put the council in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Human Rights Act 1998, the Equality Act 2010 and planning guidance of local authorities.

Mr Fulcher, who lives with Parkinson's disease, said he could not access the cycle path as he could not manoeuvre his recumbent tricycle, a two-metre cycle commonly used by disabled people, through the barriers.

In 2023 Urban Green Newcastle installed the barriers at the East and West side of the cycle path at Pottery Bank (known as National Cycle Network Route 72 (NCN Route 72). A second barrier was installed despite a complaint by Alastair regarding the first.

Newcastle City Council and Urban Green Newcastle argued that the cycle path was attracting motorcycles and the barriers were intended to deter them. 

However, after making an onsite visit, Newcastle City Council agreed to an out-of-court settlement and said the barriers would be relocated.

Urban Green Newcastle and Newcastle City Council said: 'We would like to thank Mr Fulcher for bringing this issue to our attention and agreeing to work with us to find a solution that works for everyone.

'Following a meeting onsite with Mr Fulcher, Sustrans, and Northumbria Police, it is clear that the recent resurfacing work on the National Cycle Network has inadvertently created an access problem due to the location of a newly installed barrier. We have agreed to relocate the barrier on the east side of the path and consult with Mr Fulcher during the process.

'The barriers in Walker Riverside Park have been in place for a number of years to curb persistent antisocial behaviour along this section of the National Cycle Network. Working with Mr Fulcher, we look forward to improving accessibility in the park and along the popular Coast to Coast route.'

Mr Fulcher said: 'I have mixed feelings about agreeing to an out-of-court settlement, I have a nagging suspicion that local authorities will not improve their behaviour around this issue until such time one of them is taken to court and loses with the award of a substantial cash settlement. My focus for the moment is getting NCN Route 72 west of Pottery Bank accessible to all legitimate users.'

Anti-motorcyclist barriers are common on cycle paths and though this case did not go to court, it could still influence other authorities to act. 

Disabled cyclists' campaign group Wheels for Wellbeing said: 'We hope that councils across the UK will begin to recognise that barriers which prevent legitimate users from accessing public spaces and public rights of way are unlawful and that we’ll see more routes opened to Disabled people over the course of 2024.'

Acting on behalf of Mr Fulcher, Leigh Day Solicitors' Ryan Bradshaw said: 'Institutions responsible for transport infrastructure need to do more to ensure that the rights of disabled people are respected and that planning decisions are not made without fully consulting with members of the disabled community. I hope that Alastair’s example will inspire others to take action where they feel discrimination has occurred.'

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