Local residents near Darwen in Lancashire have complained about a lack of disability access on a popular cycling route. Yahoo News reports that kissing gates have been installed on the Weavers Wheel, which is a 26 km route around Blackburn centre.
The route is used for recreation and leisure, as well as by cyclists and walkers to gain access to places of work and education, or to visit the local shops and services in Blackburn and nearby locations such as Samlebury and Whitebeck.
Blackburn and Darwen Council, who are responsible for managing the route, have installed kissing gates in an effort to deter motorcyclists who were using the trail. However, the motorbikes continue to circumnavigate the route, while the gates deny access to those using mobility scooters, wheelchairs, prams, or pushchairs.
One angry local resident who wished to remain anonymous said that the gates represented ‘disability discrimination infrastructure.’ She said: “Over the last few years they’ve had a lot of problems with motorbikes going up and down the trail. It does cause a problem.”
She added: “Where you drive down the road to join the trail, they’ve blocked that bit off and put a swing gate in. My friend just about managed to get her bike through but mine won’t fit. Anything with a trailer, a pushchair, a mobility scooter, won’t fit. And the whole trail is designed to be disabled access.”
“Once you’ve got through that, which involved putting my bike on the back wheel, you go a mile and there’s another big round metal gate, which again I can’t get through and you wouldn’t get a mobility scooter through. It’s a disability discrimination infrastructure.”
A spokesman for the local council said that the gates were a temporary measure to prevent motorbikes from causing a hazard and disturbing wildlife along the route.
Cllr Jim Smith, executive member for environment at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “Kissing gates have recently been temporarily installed at the Arran Trailer on the Weavers Wheel route, following repeated incidents of motorcyclists riding unsafely on the route, putting others and themselves at risk and disturbing nearby residents, plants, and wildlife.”
“We did not want to do this, but after numerous complaints from many residents we were left with no option. The temporary gates are a sure way of deterring motorcyclists and trying to make the trail safer for other users.”
He added: “It is not at all in our interest to limit anyone from being able to use the route – we want all of our residents to enjoy the beautiful scenery on offer across Blackburn with Darwen. Local Ward councillors have offered to meet with any local residents on the trail to work out alternative route options.”
The spokesperson said that they were in discussion with the police and community groups with a view to removing the gates in the near future.
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