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Artillery Row

Sadiq Khan is blind to unromantic disadvantages

London travel schemes are excluding the disabled and pro-diversity officials do not seem to care

Although Sadiq Khan frequently likes to tell Londoners that the city is “open” and “diversity is our greatest strength”, this sentiment sadly doesn’t seem to extend to blind and disabled people in the capital.

Documents unveiled by The Telegraph last weekend showed Transport for London’s (TfL) Independent Disability Advisory Group (IDAG) comparing new infrastructure in London to a “turd”, in terms of the impact it’s had on travel for vulnerable groups.

So-called “floating bus stops” — which essentially turn bus stops into traffic islands between a main road and cycle lane — have been the subject of huge concern from campaigners, notably NFBUK (The Voice of Blind People). Having been ignored by Khan’s administration for the best part of the year, the organisation took to protesting outside Downing Street in December last year, hoping that Mark Harper, the Transport Secretary, would intervene.

NFBUK’s position is echoed by TfL’s disability advisers, which warned that bus stops are “not fully inclusive”. Whereas blind and disabled people could once dismount a bus, moving straight onto the pavement and onwards with the journey, they now run the gamut of being hit by cyclists whizzing past. Anyone who lives in London knows that a fair amount of cyclists, however much eco campaigners pretend otherwise, have become incredibly cocky and aggressive in how they navigate London.

Another issue NFBUK and others have flagged is the growing number of dockless e-bikes and e-scooters left across the capital, partly explained by the fact they have 10-minute limits to how long they can be used for (for free). When the time is up, cyclists tend to hop off the bikes and leave them in inconvenient places, sometimes clustered with others, which make it difficult for people using wheelchairs/ mobility scooters to get past.

These problems are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how closed London is

These problems are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how closed London is to “everyone”, as opposed to having accessible travel. Last year Hounslow authority was urged to rethink its infrastructure after it spent £50,000 on a “rainbow junction” — designed as an LGBT tribute, which disability campaigners also called out. NFBUK has previously highlighted the example of a visually-impaired man in his 80s who was confused and distracted by the different colours, as an example of why these designs compromise safety.

The individual who deserves the most blame for the current state of affairs is Will Norman, London’s Cycling and Walking Commissioner. Paid around £110,000 per year, he is — as with most high-profile cyclists — deeply dogmatic and unmoveable in his position. Although Norman has known for a considerable amount of time the problems with floating bus stops, he has shown little to no concern about their effects, and has given no indication that he will slow down plans to make the capital a cycling utopia. It is an extraordinary state of affairs that a man who most Londoners won’t have heard of, in a job they may not know exists, has been able to transform infrastructure to such an extent.

Londoners are often shown idyllic cartoons, either leaflets through the door or posters out and about, that promote the cycling agenda. They tend to feature people wheelchairs merrily zooming down streets, along with happy children and families. But this is far from the reality in the capital. Khan’s administration has not only overseen a rise in knife and gun crime, but is showing quite palpably to the world how callous it is. Khan talks of diversity and inclusion, but he is the main barrier to any realisation of this.

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