• Joe

Ways that the 'Ring of Steel' would fail the disabled in Bath?

The debate around the council's plan to develop an anti-terror security system in the city centre is hotting up, with last week's cabinet meeting turning into a tense verbal dust-up between local Conservative Vic Pritchard and members of the Liberal Democrat regime.

At face value the Lib Dem council's idea is understandable enough—to seal off busy city centre streets to traffic, thus preventing a terrorist attack in the form of a vehicle driven into crowds of people. Guidance has been received from the police indicating that there is indeed such a security threat in Bath.

But these measures would surely be hard on disabled Blue Badge holders who need to be able to park close to the shops, eateries, and other city attractions that add to quality of life.

The security system, dubbed the 'Ring of Steel', would effectively strip out city centre spots where Blue Badge holders have long been able to park on single or double yellow lines for up to 3 hours. However, Westgate Street, Cheap Street, Upper Borough Walls and Saw Close, would provide on-street parking for the disabled.

With the council undeterred in taking the plan forward and with opponents reminding them that they are bound by the Equality Act 2010 to consider the impact on disabled people, it's perhaps surprising that nobody until now has produced a speculative map of the proposed scheme and what Blue Badge parking it would include. That way a better understanding of the adequacy and limitations of this disabled parking could be gained.

Mapping the problem

Making a rough map of the 'Ring of Steel' isn't hard. In the map below, the streets that are expected to have vehicle restrictions placed on them are marked in green (details come from the Agenda Pack presented to the Council Cabinet on July 2021). Not so much a ring shape but an elongated network appears.

To qualify to have a Blue Badge an individual must be unable to walk a distance of 50 metres. Therefore the map shows a 50 metre radius around Westgate Street, Cheap Street and Upper Borough Walls, shaded blue, to indicate the maximum range that a disabled person could be expected to walk having used the parking provided there.

Some issues...

Even a cursory glance at the map reveals an obvious problem: that the parking gives disabled people access to the upper half of the city centre, but the lower part is all out of range!

For example, disabled people wanting to access the Holland and Barrett health food store, or the mobile phone services in Stall Street, will be out of luck. Meanwhile, the 50 metre radius from Westgate Street reaches the building of the Primark clothes store but unfortunately not the entrance. How many other popular premises in the city would be 'unreachable' for Blue Badge holders in this way? Dozens? Surely not hundreds?

Even near to the Blue Badge parking, the problems persist. The shopping area known as The Corridor sits halfway between Cheap Street and Upper Borough Walls. It cannot be reached from either street by anyone unable to walk more than a 50 metre stretch. Notably, the Guildhall is also out of reach from there, with implications for the involvement of disabled people in local democracy. And the main Post Office at Union Street? Possibly reachable and possibly not. It all depends on which end of Westgate Street you can park at really.

The above map has a zoom-in option, allowing the user to look closely at what is and isn't likely to be within walking range of Blue Badge holders using the parking provision under this scheme. To see the map large-size click here.

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