A York disability campaigner has launched a petition calling on the council to immediately reopen the footstreets to Blue Badge holders.
Mother of three Alison Hume says City of York Council “has conveniently forgotten it has a legal duty to vulnerable residents” after extending the pedestrianised zone and preventing disabled drivers from accessing the roads.
Alison, from Nether Poppleton, and her 21 year son Edward, who has invisible disabilities, led a socially-distanced protest at the Goodramgate barrier with other affected families today (Sunday, 13 September).
She said: “If you can’t walk the so-called ‘footstreets’ easily or are not lucky enough to be able to ride a bike you are invisible to Cllr D’Agorne.
“City of York Council has conveniently forgotten it has a legal duty to vulnerable residents.
“Security guards are being paid to stand by barriers all over the city so presumably they could be instructed to lift them for Blue Badge holders and taxis carrying customers with disabilities and impairments.”
The petition, entitled Re-open York city centre streets to the disabled, has been posted on Change.org – access it here.
Alison is hoping to present it to Cllr D’Agorne, the council’s lead on transport, when it has achieved 1,000 supporters.
The campaign also comes with its own hashtag: #ClosedToUs.
The changes were brought in to allow pedestrians more room to keep socially distanced while they were in York city centre.
Extra disabled bays have been provided at Monk Bar car park, where a taxi shuttle service can take people with disabilities to and from the centre.
The petition text says: “Substantial reductions in disabled access have been brought in under Covid-related emergency powers.
“As a result, badge holders and/or their carers are no longer allowed to park close to where we need, and want, to go.
“Shops, restaurants, opticians, hairdressers etc, are out of reach. Instead, we are forced to park in a non-central car park and rely on an unsatisfactory, time-limited taxi service with a single drop-off point at the outermost edge of the shopping area.”
‘Businesses struggling to survive’
Deputy leader of the council and executive member for transport Cllr Andy D’Agorne pointed out that the changes introduced in July extended the area and the time of the restrictions of the footstreets.
And he said that, for more than 30 years, most of the central area has been prohibited for access except to emergency services between certain hours of the day.
He said: “The taxi shuttle facility is a trial as are the current arrangements and the council has launched a process to fully understand the needs of Blue Badge users.”
You can access the consultation for Blue Badge holders here.
There are also extra spaces in other city centre car parks – this map (PDF) has full details.
“In the case of Fossgate the access has been changed in response to the needs of businesses and regular customers so that taxis are able to drop off and pick up Blue Badge and elderly customers during the daytime,” Cllr D’Agorne added.
“However as with the other areas affected Blue Badge parking is still excluded because pavement space has been taken for outdoor cafes open to all.
“Since businesses are struggling to survive I would hope that Blue Badge users would understand why it has been so important to create this extra safe space at this critical time, with the exclusion of vehicles creating space for everyone including the more vulnerable to social distance and not have to struggle along narrow pavements lined with parked cars.
“I would urge all those affected to get involved with the council review to help us to find better solutions that meet the needs of all abilities as well as supporting the businesses that they wish to visit.”
Some of the comments from people with lived experience
“I use a wheelchair and my adult daughter uses a specialist seating system. We are a family of five. Waiting in line for two shuttle taxis (neither of which were suitable for my daughter’s chair) I lost the last shred of dignity I had.
“Now we can’t park in Goodramgate I feel like my family has been banned from the centre. It was already hard enough to get into York as a disabled family. Now it is impossible.”
“I have lived in York since 1976 and I am beginning to think that the centre of York will be inaccessible to me. I want to be independent and it is doubly difficult when you are on your own and so you can’t be dropped off somewhere.”
“A taxi taking me to Barnitts isn’t helpful if I need to go somewhere that isn’t near there. Standing waiting can be painful and exhausting. I feel distressed as I have to worry about these things if I need to go to town. Effectively these changes mean I can no longer access my city centre.”
“I feel as if we have gone backwards 20 years to when disabled women (and men) were told what was best for them without being asked.”