Making parks and green spaces accessible for all
With another hot summer well underway, escaping sweltering homes and the open-oven feel of sun-baked tarmac for cool green shade is something many of us enjoy. Throughout the year, connecting with nature, exercising and experiencing the seasons amongst growing plants and wildlife can provide widespread health and wellbeing benefits.
Making green spaces as accessible as possible maximises the numbers of people who can enjoy their benefits all year round.
Around 20% of the UK’s population are Disabled. We know that many Disabled people find cycling easier than walking, with many Disabled people choosing cycles of all kinds as a mobility aid. But Disabled people face more barriers to cycling, wheeling and walking than non-Disabled people – including many physical barriers on safe cycle routes.
Barriers can completely prevent access to spaces for Disabled people, or can make using routes painful, risky, intimidating or exhausting. Family and friends of Disabled people are affected too: If a Disabled parent or grandparent can’t get into a park or onto a traffic-free route, their children or grandchildren can’t use that space either.
At Wheels for Wellbeing we’re proud to be working with CPRE to provide rides that enable more Disabled people to learn about ecology and experience green spaces.
But everyone deserves to be able to use their local parks and green spaces whenever they want!
Parks and green spaces volunteers are brilliant people who can help everyone gain fair access to local green spaces.
Ensuring that maintenance programmes keep spaces as usable as possible and working to have access barriers removed are key steps that do need a bit of initial time, consideration and work, but which make a massive difference and generally reduce workload in the longer term. Accessibility measures benefit everyone – a path that is accessible for Disabled cyclists, wheelers and walkers will be more comfortable and pleasant for everybody else to use, too.
Talking with council officers whenever maintenance is planned is a great start. Simple measures that will really improve access include:
- Ensuring vegetation is cut back well behind path edges. Hedges near paths may need cutting twice per year, and it’s worth remembering that brambles can grow over 2m in a season!
- Ensuring sight lines along paths and through spaces are open, especially around corners and at junctions, for example by altering border planting heights or raising tree canopies;
- Ensuring damaged surfaces – potholes, uneven slabs etc – are repaired promptly;
- Adding signage to encourage considerate space sharing – from clearing litter to slow cycling and keeping dogs on short leads.
More long-term measures include:
- Removing gates, chicanes and other barriers, replacing them with bollards spaced at 1.5m where vehicle entry needs to be prevented – this is a low-cost measure which can often make an inaccessible space accessible at a single stroke;
- Ensuring there are drop kerbs and well-signed step-free options for all routes;
- Ensuring bins, benches and signs do not narrow paths accidentally: Litter placed around objects like these often creates obstructions even when object itself does not, so setting these in wide hard-surfaced spaces can be very helpful;
- Widening and re-surfacing paths to provide safe routes for all;
- Providing accessible cycle parking, including marked Disabled bays;
- Providing Disabled toilets, including Changing Places toilets, in parks.
Our Guide to Inclusive Cycling provides more information about making spaces accessible for Disabled cyclists: https://wheelsforwellbeing.org.uk/campaigning/guide/
Please get in touch with us via email firstname.lastname@example.org , Twitter or Facebook @Wheels4Well to talk about any aspects of inclusive cycling, wheeling and walking, including access reviewing and consultation.