The government’s own advisers on accessible transport have raised serious concerns about plans to install inaccessible vertical bike racks in the carriages that will be used on the HS2 high speed railway.
The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) has told the government that storing bikes on vertical racks in HS2 train carriages would be “a retrograde step in terms of accessibility”.
The use of the racks is apparently being given “serious consideration”, even though they would increase the need for assistance for disabled and other passengers who want to bring bikes on board.
DPTAC’s chair, Keith Richards, who will shortly be leaving his post, expressed his “deep disappointment” in the letter (PDF) that HS2 and the Department for Transport (DfT) had failed to seek the committee’s advice.
And he suggested that DfT and HS2 could be breaching the Equality Act with their actions.
He said: “DPTAC’s view is that the DfT and HS2 must seize every opportunity to advance equality of opportunity by enabling disabled passengers to make door-to-door journeys.
“A key element of that is to ensure that those passengers who wish to use bikes for part of their journey are not presented with hurdles or challenges on any part of that door-to-door journey where such hurdles can and should be avoided.”
The letter was obtained by The Association of British Commuters (ABC) through a freedom of information request.
DPTAC said in the letter that many bikes “are simply not narrow enough or light enough to be easily hung on racks”, particularly in “a very constrained space”, while an increasing number of passengers “simply do not possess the height, upper body strength, dexterity, balance etc to enable them to use this type of storage”.
Richards also pointed out that many people were using bikes that were adapted for their needs, such as those with wider wheels or e-cycles, which are likely to be bigger and heavier and “unlikely to fit the hanging mechanisms”.
And he said that “introducing restrictions on the ability for disabled and older passengers to make rail journeys fails to recognise the potential to significantly increase revenue from this large and growing proportion of the UK population”.
He added: “Disabled people already face a number of significant challenges when considering rail as a mode of transport they might use.
“To provide vertical cycle hanging would be a retrograde step and would present a significant deterrent for many disabled (and non-disabled) cyclists.”
Richards called on DfT to consult DPTAC, and carry out “a transparent, robust process of inclusive design” and a full equality impact assessment, before it made any decisions on the design of the bike storage space on HS2 trains.
Only three months ago, Chloe Smith, the minister for disabled people, visited an inclusive cycling session run by the user-led charity Wheels for Wellbeing, which campaigns for equal access to cycling for disabled people, and spoke of how the government was “committed to levelling up the country and building a society where there is equal opportunity to thrive”.
Dr Kay Inckle, campaigns and policy manager for Wheels for Wellbeing, said: “Bike storage which requires people to lift and hang a bicycle is inaccessible for disabled cyclists who ride bicycles and non-standard cycles alike and we do not support their use.
“These hangers are also unusable by a range of cyclists who use larger and heavier cycles including family cycles and e-bikes, potentially also discriminating against parents/carers and older people.
“Accessible onboard cycle storage is all the more important for disabled cyclists because they cannot make use of public cycle share and hire schemes because they use non-standard cycles or bicycles with adaptations.
“Our recent survey of disabled cyclists found that cycle parking and storage and access to public transport were two of the most significant barriers to disabled people cycling.
“Trains need to be designed with much more flexi-space to allow multiple disabled people (whatever mobility aid they use), cyclists (disabled and not), parents and carers with prams and buggies and people with luggage to travel comfortably and safely at the same time.
“In order to increase train travel, the breadth and diversity of the public needs to be fully accommodated within the design rather than offering minimum poorly designed spaces that exclude and discriminate against many.”
DfT said it was considering a range of options for bike storage, including vertical and horizontal bike racks and a combination of the two, and expects to make a decision later this year.
A DfT spokesperson said: “No decisions have been taken on bike storage on HS2 trains.
“We are committed to making rail accessible for all and will continue to work with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee on the carriage designs.”
Picture: An artist’s impression of how the HS2 trains will look
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