Weekly Poll – Street Clutter (Week Beginning 21 June 2021)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue.  For the week beginning 21 June 2021, we asked a question about Street Clutter.

Download the report (PDF)

Results

Question 1. Have you found it more difficult to navigate town and city centres due to an increase in street clutter? 

  • YES – 96% (306 respondents)
  • NO – 4% (13 respondents)

Comments

The overwhelming majority of respondents (96%) have found it more difficult to navigate town and city centres due to an increase in street clutter. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

Café and Restaurant Furniture

Respondents shared their experiences of the challenges they face when accessing town and city centres across Scotland due to obstructions on pavements created by street clutter. As lockdown restrictions continue to ease and businesses reopen, there has been an increase in street clutter, including café or restaurant furniture, which can make pavements difficult to navigate. In some cases, disabled people are being forced onto roads and into the path of oncoming traffic. This is particularly concerning for people with reduced mobility and sensory impairments.

“I walk using two sticks as I have difficulty getting around my local town. My wife, who is also my carer, must walk by my side to keep me from falling when we go out. We find it difficult to get around town as cafés and pubs now have tables and chairs on the pavement which often means we have to walk on the road as there is not enough space for us to walk side-by-side due to the obstacle on the pavement.”

“Especially since lockdown, it seems every eatery and pub with 90cm of street frontage is being allowed to place tables and chairs in people’s ways! As an electric wheelchair user, I’m often forced onto busy roads, or, have to curtail shopping experiences, because it’s unsafe to use the roads.”

“I’m not physically impaired but sensory input causes me much anxiety and having extra tables and signs in the middle of the road plus physical distancing makes for a very stressful environment. I have fainted out on the street due to panic attacks and not being able to get away thanks to no space as I was ‘trapped’ between a roped off café and the road.”

“Sadly, COVID has brought a complete change with many streets cluttered with eatery tables, trader’s boards, adverts tied to the many items of street furniture which themselves are a hazard. My wife is in a wheelchair which I have to manoeuvre around these.”

Spaces for People

Spaces for People is a temporary infrastructure programme that was first introduced in April 2020 to provide additional space for physical distancing for people to walk, wheel or cycle while COVID-19 restrictions remain in place. Examples of the measures include the introduction of temporary cycle lanes, extensions to pavements, roads closed to traffic and removal of parking and loading spaces. A Disability Equality Scotland poll from September 2020 found that 77% (333 respondents) believed Spaces for People changes had made it more difficult to get around local streets and town centres. Respondents shared their ongoing concerns about the Spaces for People programme. 

“The Spaces for People project in Glasgow have made the city centre a no-go area for disabled people. Removal of blue badge parking spaces have made life so difficult so I now cannot go into the city centre. So much for equality and inclusion.”

“It was with utter disgust to me that the temporary bus stops were constructed. It means disabled and elderly people must stand in the rain without the ability to have a seat or be dry.”

“Spaces for People have removed disabled parking bays. I need my car to get close to my work in Glasgow, but the closest parking is too far away to wheel. I have lost the ability to travel to work independently and have had additional costs for taxis for the last mile with taxi drivers normally not being happy at such a short trip and the time it takes to get me and my chair in and out the taxi.”

“It is bad enough trying to navigate places on my wheelchair, but things have got much worse since Spaces for People and the new street culture.”

20-minute Neighbourhoods

The concept of 20-minute neighbourhoods means having all your basic needs – shops, health centres, work opportunities, and recreation – within a mile of where you live and close enough to walk or wheel. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of local places for people’s health, wellbeing and social connections. However, disabled people continue to face several barriers in their local communities, which restrict access to key services and adds the risk of social isolation and loneliness. At Disability Equality Scotland, we are working with the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland and the Mobility Access Committee for Scotland (MACS) to host a series of events exploring the benefits and challenges of a 20-minute neighbourhood. More information on how to get involved can be found on the Alliance website.

“My high street/primary shopping area was a significant challenge for me to access with the aid of my guide dog. It has now become a ‘no go’ zone because the street clutter has exponentially increased as the pandemic has gone on.”

“It’s very difficult for disabled people to navigate this. People are trying to get their confidence back after covid and now they have to put up with street furniture and something needs to be done about this.”

“It’s become really difficult recently especially with more taking place outdoors. I don’t go out anymore as I’m finding it really stressful to navigate my way round.”

Advertising Boards

Respondents reflected on the use of advertising boards which can obstruct pavements and access to shops. However, there was an understanding from some respondents on why retailers have increased advertising to help generate trade as the country eases out of lockdown. In 2019, a citywide ban of on-street advertising boards came into force in Edinburgh. There have been calls from campaigners for other local authorities to implement a similar ban.

“I have found there is an increase in advertising boards that many places use to advertise offers over the last few years. If you are in a wheelchair these boards along with other street furniture such as benches and bins can often mean that there is very little room to get past.”

“Advertising boards – those billboards positioned outside of various stores that stand at a height which can easily be missed (especially for taller folks) who then can and do collide with them or even fall over them! They are a hazard to be sure, but one cannot blame stores for trying to drum up business these days.”

“It is time there was a clear set of guidelines enshrined in law that Councils need to follow to ensure pavements are safe for all pedestrians to use; my local authority doesn’t even have an A-Board policy, so they are allowing a free for all to occur and stopping me not only from accessing local businesses, but more importantly from me safely accessing essential services like my GP Practice and dentist.” 

Roadworks

Some respondents shared their experiences of the pop-up nature of temporary roadworks, which can result in having to find an alternative route. In some cases, the roadwork signs are placed on the pavement, which creates an additional obstruction.

“The worst offenders are contractors digging up the road. They put warning signs on the pavement preventing wheelchairs from getting past the signs. And when a footpath is closed they put up signs ‘please use footpath on the other side of the road’, but they do not provide temporary dropped kerbs or ramps to enable people to get to the other side.”

“Roadworks are a nightmare and why do the road work signs always have to block the pavement when the works are on the road? Signs should be placed on the roads not the pavements.”

Recycling and Waste Bins 

Respondents reflected on the increase of recycling and waste bins, which can create obstructions on pavements for passing pedestrians. In some cases, respondents have had to clear a path by physically moving bins out of the way.

“Bin collection days are a nightmare. Bins are thrown in all directions, so a wheelchair user ends up having to clear a path through the pavements, lanes and narrow roads. It is particularly bad when drivers park on part of the pavements.”

“The worst of all is the many wheelie bins now in use and not only on uplift days but permanent due to lack of retailer and town resident storage space.”

“There seems to be more bins than ever on pavements. Impossible to pass as a wheelchair user.”

Pavement Surfaces

Disabled people raised concerns about poorly maintained pavement infrastructure. This includes narrow pavements, uneven surfaces and a lack of dropped kerbs.

“The poor state of repairs on pavements contribute to the difficulty I face getting around.”

“What is of more concern and hazardous are badly fitted pavement slabs or broken ones.”

“I have mobility issues and I struggle on uneven surfaces. Too many streets are not designed for people who use sticks.”

“The pavements are the biggest disgrace. I took a fall because of a poorly maintained pavement. Also, slanted pavements are not safe for wheelchairs, push chairs, prams and walking sticks. They need sorting out.”

“Most pavements are too narrow for street clutter. Rules should be made and enforced to stop street clutter.”

“We need more dropped kerbs.”

Pavement Parking

There were ongoing concerns about obstructions created by pavement parking. In 2019, the Scottish Parliament agreed to a ban on pavement parking across the country. The new law was originally meant to be enforced in 2021 as part of the Transport (Scotland) Bill. However, it was recently announced that this has been delayed until 2023. Respondents called on the ban to be implemented sooner. At Disability Equality Scotland, we are members of the Scottish Responsible Parking Alliance, and we recently co-signed a letter to the Minister for Transport to provide a clear timeline for when the ban on footway, dropped kerbs and double parking will be consulted on and implemented.

“There is an increase in not only street furniture but cars parking on the pavement. Trying to navigate around them in a wheelchair means having to put me at risk on a live carriageway, also the drop of the kerb and trying to return to the pavement.”

“The single biggest contributor to street clutter is still parked cars on pavements which cannot be navigated safely. There was a provision in the transport (Scotland) act 2019 to prohibit this, but I believe it’s still not in force.”

“In more residential areas pavement parking is a major issue. I have often found myself walking in the road because cars in considerately parked are blocking the pavement. This not only affects the disabled users but also people using prams.”

“The pavement parking ban needs brought forward. With more people working from home and 2-3 car families, pavement parking has got worse.”

Engagement with Disabled People and Access Panels

Respondents believed that more meaningful action must be taken by local authorities to reduce street clutter in communities across Scotland. In order to achieve meaningful change, it is vital to involve disabled people who can share their lived experience and identify areas for improvement. At Disability Equality Scotland we are the umbrella body for Access Panels, which are groups of disabled volunteers who work together to improve physical access and wider social inclusion in their local communities. Local authorities must work with their nearest Access Panel, who can share their knowledge and expertise on how to make communities more accessible. More information about Access Panels can be found on the Access Panel Network website: www.accesspanel.scot

“We need councils working actively with their local Access Panel to ensure that street clutter is removed to help make our streets more welcoming and accessible.”

“Disabled people must be involved in any conversations to improve the accessibility of our local infrastructure.”

“Too much clutter on our pavements between advertising signs, bins and cars parked. Councils need to pay more focus on keeping pavements clear. Lip service about travel hierarchies and walking and wheeling at the top is not enough. We need actions to prioritise pavements to enable easier walking and wheeling.”

Awareness

It was suggested that an awareness campaign could help to highlight the challenges faced by disabled people, which is targeted at retailers and members of the public.

“There needs to be a national education drive on mainstream media to raise awareness of the need to keep pavements clear, particularly at dropped kerbs and to ensure people are aware of the problems they cause by parking on pavements.”

“Time to bring back the ‘Keep our pavements clear’ campaign.”

Conclusion

An overwhelming number of respondents (96%) had encountered difficulties with navigating pavements due to an increase in street clutter. As lockdown eases and businesses reopen, there has been an increase in café and restaurant street clutter, which can act as an obstruction for disabled people when accessing public spaces. In addition, during the pandemic a number of temporary infrastructure changes were implemented as part of the Spaces for People programme. Disabled people raised a number of ongoing concerns about the changes, which in some cases have resulted in removing disabled parking bays and extensions to pavements without suitable dropped kerbs. Respondents also reflected on the various forms of street clutter which they encounter on a daily basis, including obstructions created by advertising boards, roadworks, poorly maintained pavements and pavement parking. It was suggested by respondents that more meaningful action must be taken by local authorities across Scotland. There were also calls for the ban of pavement parking to be brought forward to address immediate concerns. Local authorities, retailers and other relevant parties must engage directly with disabled people and Access Panels in order to ensure lived experience drives positive change.