“I have recently moved to Liverpool and one of the pleasures of my new location is being able to cycle the ‘three parks’ route home from work. It’s longer than taking the roads, but it’s safer and takes me through the glorious Sefton Park, past the lake and the geese in Greenbank Park, and through the tree-lined avenue in Wavertree (The Mystery) Park. It’s a great way to unwind after a long day and connect with nature on my way home, as well as getting a good upper body workout.

However, last month I was outraged to find that the gate into Wavertree Park had been changed so that it was impossible for me to pass through with my handcycle. This would of course also exclude other people cycling non-standard cycles, such as trikes or those with child carriers or trailers, as well as disabled people who ride a bicycle but cannot dismount and carry their bike through the gate.

Woman using handcycle unable to get through gates to parkRestricted access before
I immediately contacted Liverpool City Council and, to their credit, I got a very fast response from one councillor and the head of parks and green spaces. The head of parks and green spaces arranged to meet me at the gate the following Monday to discuss changing the gate so that disabled people are not prevented from entering the park. The meeting was very positive. I made the council aware of the obstruction caused by the gate and a commitment was made to remove it.

We agreed that some form of barrier needed to be in place so that dogs and children could not simply run straight out of the park and onto the busy road, but we also agreed that whilst the exact design of this barrier was developed the obstructive gate should not be in place.

Just over a week after my initial complaint, the gate was fixed! The photos say it all.

Woman using handcycle smiling as she goes through modified gateThe gate after it had been fixed
This was a positive experience of raising a complaint and having it addressed with speed and gravity. I hope that it encourages more disabled cyclists to challenge discrimination and, more importantly, prompts more public bodies to fully implement their obligations under the Equality Act 2010.”

Wheels for Wellbeing
Wheels for Wellbeing is an award-winning charity supporting disabled people of all ages and abilities in the UK to enjoy the benefits of cycling. The organisation follows a person-centred approach based on the Social Model of Disability. They work to remove or overcome any barriers that prevent an individual from cycling.

Cycling is, of course, just one of the many ways that people like to get around town and enjoy their local parks and green spaces, in addition to being a great way to keep active. Disabled people encounter many barriers to cycling, including much higher than average costs for adapted bikes and trikes, and inadequate infrastructure. In addition to directly supporting disabled people to cycle, Wheels for Wellbeing campaign to remove those barriers,

According to their research, inaccessible cycle infrastructure is the biggest difficulty faced by disabled cyclists. This is perhaps unsurprising given the kinds of cycles that many disabled people use, such as handcycles, recumbents and trikes, which are typically longer and wider than standard two-wheeled bicycles – together with the fact that most disabled cyclists use their cycle as a mobility aid and can’t physically dismount and walk or wheel their cycle. Physical barriers, such as bollards, bridges and kissing gates, pose real and everyday problems that limit disabled cyclists’ ability to cycle where and when they want.

With thanks to Kay, Wheels for Wellbeing and Disability Rights UK for sharing this story.