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TfA member wins victory in four year battle to make Westminster’s streets more accessible

Added: 12 March 2018 | Updated: 12 March 2018

TfA member Chris Stapleton has achieved a major victory after a four-year-long campaign trying to persuade Westminster to introduce kerb drops in over twenty-five locations where they are missing.

Thanks to Chris’s campaign, Westminster Council has recently agreed to implement twenty kerb drops in the next four months from the list of places he identified and to implement a further six in the financial year 2018/19.

In an email sent to Chris, they said:

“The City Council recognises the issues for accessibility in particular for wheelchair users to navigate the streets and has taken positive measures to address the deficiencies by introducing a dropped kerb replacement programme funded via our capital Planned Preventative Maintenance programme.“

No welcome for wheelchair users

Kerb drops are a vital part of accessibility for wheelchair users and anyone else who has difficulty with steps. In all other London boroughs, kerb drops are plentiful and it’s almost always possible for a wheelchair user to cross the road with ease. But for some reason in the City of Westminster, which includes the busy areas of Soho and the West End, there are still very many places where kerb drops are missing.

The pavements in Westminster are a terrible obstacle course, which sends people on needless, exhausting, time-consuming detours just to get along important, busy streets which for walking pedestrians are completely free and open and easy to use.

Chris said:

“It’s frustrating and deeply unfair that whilst my friends are able to cross any road they like in Soho, we cannot do this together: I have to go on big detour.”

Here is a slideshow with pictures of Chris showing inaccessible kerb drops around Soho. Click on the arrows to see the pictures:

No welcome for wheelchair users in Soho

A four year campaign

Chris had campaigned for four years to get Westminster to take this issue seriously. He sent requests to Westminster’s Transport and Streets department; he tried to talk to Councillors who showed no interest at all.

Chris says

“I was shocked to find that instead of being positive and helpful about the problem of missing kerb-drops, the officials I spoke to came up with a catalogue of excuses, obstacles, barriers and evasions. I felt very let down, both by Westminster officials and by the Councillors I had contacted”

Transport for All Chair, Alan Benson says:

“The fact that pavements in Westminster – one of the most touristic areas in London – have been missing kerb drops for so long is a scandal. Our member Chris Stapleton, who is a wheelchair user, has spent years contacting the council on this crucial issue but was always knocked back.“Transport for All therefore really welcomes the great news that after much campaigning Westminster Council has finally agreed to install some drop kerbs around Soho”.

Strangely, Westminster Council have been claiming that they were planning to introduce these kerb drops all along. Even stranger then, that the list of promised kerb drops happens to correspond exactly to Chris’s own list of locations for which he has been requesting them for some years – and that Westminster agreed to implement them just a few weeks after Chris was told in a face-to-face meeting with a council official that it was extremely unlikely that the kerb drops he was requesting would be implemented!

Celebration as the work has already started

This week Chris has been celebrating, after finding that the requested kerb drops at the junction of Noel St and Berwick St have already been introduced, and are of excellent quality.

The impact of good, easy-to-use kerb drops cannot be overstated. They enabled wheelchair users to move around the city with just as much freedom as walking pedestrians: to go to work, socialise, have fun, visit loved ones, go shopping, and carry out all life’s other tasks and activities, without continually coming up against insurmountable barriers at street corners.

Alan Benson added:

“Disabled and older people are not second-class citizen: we want to travel, shop and enjoy the West End like everyone else. We really hope that Westminster Council will work to improve access to their streets for wheelchair and mobility scooter users.”

Chris’s successful campaign is inspiring. It has indeed shown that persistence can bring about victory. He said: “I would like to encourage everyone to complain all the time about any barriers we find around us, and not to take “no” for an answer from anyone, but to complain and then complain again, persistently, until we bring about the changes we need for a fully accessible environment.”

Picture of Chris posing in Soho, near a brand new kerb drop recently installed by Westminster Council. Chris is on his electric wheelchair, holding a "Campaign Victory" sign

Here is the list of kerb drops that Westminster has agreed to install:

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