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Hackney parents of children with disabilities feel ignored by “blanket” traffic measures

PUBLISHED: 10:53 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:40 01 December 2020

Traffic filter in Hackney Downs Low Traffic Neighbourhood. Picture: Hackney Council

Traffic filter in Hackney Downs Low Traffic Neighbourhood. Picture: Hackney Council

Hackney Council

Road restrictions in Hackney have made journeys to school more difficult for children with disabilities, parents say.

As1 charity founder, Charlotte Pearson, with her two children who have autism and find it diffiucult to travel and deal with changes to routine. Picture: Courtesy of Pearson familyAs1 charity founder, Charlotte Pearson, with her two children who have autism and find it diffiucult to travel and deal with changes to routine. Picture: Courtesy of Pearson family

Road restrictions in Hackney have made journeys to school more difficult for children with disabilities, parents say.

Congestion measures, implemented in low traffic neighbourhoods around Hackney under experimental traffic orders (ETOs), are designed to restrict through-traffic in residential areas, improve road safety and clean up pollution.

A Hackney mum, Charlotte Ritchie, who lives near Millfields Park, says the traffic filters, bus gates and the introduction of 40 new School Streets in September are to blame for increased congestion in her area.

She says her son is exhausted now that his bus journey to school is four times longer, its duration increasing from 10 minutes to 45.

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“It started when he got back to school because before that, it ran like clockwork,” she said.

READ MORE: Hundreds join protest march and rally to ‘stop horrendous Hackney road closures’

Charlotte’s son was born with one kidney, which means he spends five hours every two days on an at-home dialysis machine.

She told the Gazette: “It’s affecting him a lot, he’s absolutely knackered because he is getting in so late.”

On top of the stress caused by changes to school-run routines, Charlotte is concerned about impact of the restrictions on emergency services.

“If there is an emergency then you’re stuck. There’s nowhere for cars to even pull over to let an ambulance through. It is back to back lines of traffic,” she added.

Mother-of-two Charlotte Pearson runs a disability charity called As1 which supports families and through her work has met many people impacted by road closures and traffic restrictions, especially wheelchair users.

Both her children are autistic and her son is a blue badge holder. She says significant changes to school-run routines cause anxiety and stress.

Most popular modes of transport used by Londoners with disabilities. Picture: Holly ChantMost popular modes of transport used by Londoners with disabilities. Picture: Holly Chant

The charity founder also lives on a main road and thinks the restrictions have increased pollution where she lives.

READ MORE: Hackney Down residents praise introduction of low traffic neighbourhood

She explained: “It feels like when they put this plan together and they said: ‘Cleaner air on residential streets and people should walk or cycle’.

“Well, we don’t live on a residential street, we live on a main road.

“We are not able to walk or cycle. Were families like mine even considered when these plans were put through? It doesn’t feel like it.”

Ms Pearson only learnt to drive recently after realising her son had such difficulties with other forms of transport.

“My issue is the blanket - putting everybody under the same umbrella and assuming everyone’s situations are the same, because they’re not,” she said.

She criticised the council’s handling of negative responses to its road schemes and a lack of communication, saying it feels like a “dictatorship” - “like they don’t care”.

Parents of children who attend The Garden School in Stoke Newington, like Elaine McKeswick, also said they feel unheard and not properly consulted.

Elaine said: “Our lives are stressful enough and then to add extra stress onto that is just crazy.”

READ MORE: Hackney Down residents praise introduction of low traffic neighbourhood

However, residents can share their thoughts on the new traffic measures up to six months after they were introduced.

The council stated “all residents who could previously access their home by car can continue to do so”, except they may have to get there via an alternative route.

Environment chief Cllr Jon Burke said measures to rebuild a greener Hackney are aimed at everyone, including those with disabilities.

According to Transport for London (TFL) figures (2012), the most popular mode of transport used by Londoners with disabilities, at least once a week, is walking (78 per cent), followed by buses at 55pc, cars as a passenger (44pc) and as a driver, 24pc.

READ MORE: Hackney residents speak out about road closure disruption

Eleven pc of Londoners are disabled, which is about 967,000 people and the vast majority say impairments limit their ability to travel.

Cllr Burke says this is why it is “incredibly important” to support Hackney’s residents, 70pc of which do not own a car, to walk more and cycle.

“This helps to prioritise public transport, especially buses, which are running at low capacity to promote social distancing, for those who need it.

“Like any change to roads, there can be congestion as drivers change behaviour and sat nav apps adjust. We expect this congestion to reduce over the coming weeks,” the councillor added.

The council said TfL and Thames Water roadworks in the borough - at Cambridge Heath, on Kingsland Road in Dalston and on Upper Clapton Road - may be a causal factor in reports of increased congestion.

A council spokesperson added: “The council’s transport and special educational needs teams are working closely together to ensure there is a minimal effect to school transport for students with special educational needs. We are monitoring journey times and will take action if necessary.”

Let us know what you think about the traffic restrictions by clicking here to complete a survey.

To let the council know what you think about the road closures visit wwww.rebuildingagreenerhackney.commonplace.is or contact it in writing.


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