Disability complaints as more repainted road crossings introduced in King's Cross

Repainted crossing hinders disabled people put in despite mayor's advice

Monday, 15th November 2021 — By Harry Taylor

WhatsApp Image 2021-11-09 at 09.18.47

A group unveils the crossing in support of transgender people, including Camden’s mayor Sabrina Francis, regeneration chief Danny Beales and the head of Forum + Tessa Havers-Strong [Simon Lamrock]

A NEWLY repainted crossing to show support for transgender people has been criticised for discriminating against disabled people – a week after the Mayor of London told councils to halt them because of their impact.

A pelican crossing in Marchmont Street, at the junction with Tavistock Place, was repainted with the blue, pink, and white horizontal striped flag to show support for Transgender Awareness Week, which begins on Saturday.

An opening was attended by a group including Camden’s mayor Sabrina Francis, regeneration chief Danny Beales and the head of Forum +, Tessa Havers-Strong on Monday.

However, disability activists have pointed out they are hard to use for people who have visual impairments or learning difficulties. The opening also ignored an order by Transport for London last week that they should be temporarily stopped.

Similar schemes have been installed in Camden Town, where the rainbow flag was painted on the crossing of Camden Road and Jamestown Road last year, and in Tottenham Court Road, where City Hall paid an artist to come up with designs to promote central London.

Access consultant and wheelchair user Mik Scarlet said he was shocked Camden had introduced the crossing again, despite the advice by City Hall and the impact on disabled people previously being covered in the New Journal.

He called for them to be scrapped. “We’re being let down time after time by a council that doesn’t seem to know its legal responsibilities or want disabled people to live in the borough.

“It’s dangerous. It’s a road. Some disabled might recognise the crossing and the button and the beeping, but then if they cross, look down and get confused, then what? They’re in the middle of the road, will traffic then let them carry on or be patient? Not with my experience of drivers in London.”

It was also criticised by Transport for All, a disabled-led campaigning group, which Sadiq contacted last week writing: “In light of growing concern about the negative impact of colourful crossings on disabled people, and new research received by TfL, I have asked TfL to introduce a temporary pause on the installation of any new colourful crossing on its network.

“TfL will also be advising boroughs to temporarily pause any future colourful crossing projects.”

The repainting was in part to promote education about transgender. However, attempts were made by anti-trans campaigners to hijack the issue on social media. Transport for All said it was horrified to see comments “weap­onised against other marginalised groups”.

It added: “The use of disabled people’s experiences to fuel division and hatred goes against everything that Transport for All stands for.”

Mr Scarlet said: “These less tolerant, less inclusive members of our society didn’t give a toss about disabled people until they thought it was a bandwagon they could jump on.

“I’m livid at Camden Council for actively creating division. By doing this they’ve contrived to pit two minorities against each other.”

The 56-year-old is currently working with disabled, transgender and non-binary people on an upcoming show, CRIPtic Pit Party at the Barbican Centre.

“People who are disabled can be LGBT. There’s a better way of helping transgender people without harming disabled people,” he said.“Paint the town hall, hang a massive flag outside, put the money into services to support transgender people – don’t make the crossings colourful.”

Camden Council said it had carried out an equality impact assessment (EQIA) report, and had kept key features in place to try and ensure it was safe for disabled people to use.

Accessibility expert Mik Scarlet outside Camden Market

Speaking to the New Journal on Tuesday, Mayor Khan said: “There is nothing per se wrong with these colourful crossings. What people need to do is make sure whether it’s councils or TfL that we consult. I am sure Camden has consulted relevant disability groups or those who are visually impaired. What none of us want to do is inadvertently make it worse for anyone.”

Cllr Beales said: “We have considered what people say might be the issues, and we have responded to them. If people feel there are still problems in practice we’re happy to hear about it. We have a disability oversight group that we regularly talk to about accessibility issues.

“Camden’s campaigning in different ways. Lighting up the town hall for the day doesn’t have that lasting presence. Are there other ways we need to do it? Yes. You don’t stand up for trans rights or LGBT rights just by doing a crossing and we’re under no illusions it will stop the hate directed towards trans people. We are not saying we get everything right, if people want to talk to us about it, we’re happy to do so.”

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