There are a significant and steadily increasing number of people with reduced mobility who like to get off tarmac onto natural surfaces and out to wilder areas to enjoy great views and get in touch with nature whenever they are able to. There are many ways they achieve this, depending on how rough and steep the terrain is. A determined pusher of a manual wheelchair can enable access to a disabled person across grass and up steep hills. An off-road mobility scooter rider can manage rough terrain, significant slopes, cross water up to 8” deep, and depending on their battery type and the terrain they are on, they can easily run 8 miles or more on one charge. Modern batteries are now available that allow a range of up to 60 miles on one charge!
Many more people too are now using mobility vehicles in urban areas, both manual and electric. ‘Pavement’ scooters and powerchairs often have very low ground clearance, and some disabilities mean that users are unable to withstand jolts, so well placed dropped kerbs and safe places to cross roads are needed.
Modern mobility vehicles can be very large, and many man-made barriers that will allow a manual wheelchair through are not large enough for all-terrain mobility vehicles, or for ‘pavement’ scooters and prevent legitimate access.
Users of mobility vehicles have the same rights of access that walkers do. Man-made structures along walking routes should not be a barrier to access for users of mobility vehicles. New structures should allow convenient access to mobility vehicle riders as standard, and should comply with British Standard BS5709: 2018 Gaps Gates and Stiles which places the emphasis on Least Restrictive Access. Suitability of structures should always be considered on the assumption that a person with reduced mobility will be going out without more-mobile helpers, so will need to operate the structure on their own, seated on their mobility vehicle.
When it is impossible to avoid man-made structures which are a barrier to mobility vehicles, wherever feasible a nearby alternative should be provided. For example, a slope adjacent to steps or a signed short diversion.
Whilst BS5709:2018 does not automatically apply retrospectively to most existing structures, Disabled Ramblers would like to see existing structures removed and replaced if they prevent access to users of mobility vehicles. Some structures can have a ‘life’ of 15 years – it would be a crying shame if those with limited mobility have to wait this long before they can be afforded the same access that walkers have to those areas where the terrain is suitable for mobility vehicles.
Disabled Ramblers campaign for:
- Installation of new structures that are suitable for those who use large mobility vehicles, and that comply with British Standard BS5709: 2018 Gaps Gates and Stiles.
- Review of existing man-made structures that are a barrier to those who use mobility vehicles, and where possible removal and replacement with suitable structures to allow access to these people
- compliance with the Equality Act 2010 (and the Public Sector Equality Duty within this act)
- compliance with the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000
- adherence to the advice from Disabled Ramblers as set out below.
- Mobility Vehicles
- Legal Maximum Width of Category 3 mobility vehicles: 85cm. The same width is needed all the way up to pass through any kind of barrier to allow for handlebars, armrests and other bodywork.
- Length: Mobility vehicles vary in length, but 173cm is a guide minimum length.
- Gaps should be 1.1 minimum width on a footpath (BS5709:2018)
- Pedestrian gates The minimum clear width should be 1.1m (BS5709:2018)
- Manoeuvring space One-way opening gates need more manoeuvring space than two-way opening ones and some mobility vehicles may need a three metre diameter space
- The ground before, through and after any gap or barrier must be flat otherwise the resulting tilt effectively reduces the width
A Gap is always the preferred solution for access, and the least restrictive option (BS 5709:2018). The minimum clear width of gaps on footpaths should be 1.1metres (BS 5709:2018).
On a footpath, these should be placed to allow a minimum gap of 1.1metres through which large mobility vehicles can pass.
A two-way, self-closing gate closing gate with trombone handle and Centrewire EASY LATCH is the easiest to use – if well maintained, and if a simple gap is unacceptable. Yellow handles and EASY LATCH allow greater visibility and assist those with impaired sight too: https://centrewire.com/products/easy-latch-for-2-way-gate/ One-way opening gates need more manoeuvring space than two-way and some mobility vehicles may need a three metre diameter space to manoeuvre around a one-way gate. The minimum clear width of pedestrian gates should be 1.1metres (BS 5709:2018).
Field gates (sometimes used across access roads) are too large and heavy for those with limited mobility to use, so should always be paired with an alternative such as a gap or pedestrian gate. However if this is not possible, a York 2 in 1 Gate: https://centrewire.com/products/york-2-in-1/ could be an alternative, with a self-closing, two-way opening, yellow handles and EASY LATCH.
(Step-over metal gate within a larger gate: https://centrewire.com/?s=bristol ) These are a barrier to mobility vehicles as well as to pushchairs and so should be replaced with an appropriate structure. If space is limited, and a pedestrian gate not possible, a York 2 in 1 Gate: https://centrewire.com/products/york-2-in-1/ could be an alternative, with a self-closing, two-way opening, yellow handle and EASY LATCH for the public access part of the gate.
A two-way, self-closing gate is hugely preferable to a kissing gate, but in certain situations a kissing gate might be needed. Some kissing gates can be used by smaller pushchairs and small wheelchairs, but are impassable by mobility scooters and other mobility vehicles. Unless an existing kissing gate has been specifically designed for access by large mobility vehicles, it should be replaced, if possible with a suitable gate (see above). If a kissing gate really must be used, Disabled Ramblers only recommend the Centrewire Woodstock Large Mobility kissing gate. This is fitted with a RADAR lock which can be used by some users of mobility vehicles. NB this is the only type of kissing gate that is large enough to be used by all-terrain and large mobility vehicles.
Note about RADAR locks on Kissing gates
Often mobility vehicle riders find RADAR locks difficult to use, so they should only be used if there is not a suitable alternative arrangement. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Rider cannot get off mobility vehicle to reach the lock
- Rider cannot reach lock from mobility vehicle (poor balance, lack of core strength etc.)
- Position of lock is in a corner so mobility vehicle cannot come alongside lock to reach it, even at an angle
- RADAR lock has not been well maintained and no longer works properly
- Not all disabled people realise that a RADAR key will open the lock, and don’t know how these kissing gates work. There must be an appropriate, informative, label beside the lock.
Board walks, Footbridges, Quad bike bridges
All of these structures should be designed to be appropriate for use by large mobility vehicles, be sufficiently wide and strong, and have toe-boards (a deck level edge rail) as edge protection. On longer board walks there may also be a need to provide periodic passing places.
Sleeper bridges are very often 3 sleepers wide, but they need to be at least 4 sleepers wide to allow for use by mobility vehicles.
Whenever possible, step free routes should be available to users of mobility vehicles. Existing steps could be replaced, or supplemented at the side, by a slope or ramp. Where this is not possible, an alternative route should be provided. Sometimes this might necessitate a short diversion, regaining the main route a little further on, and this diversion should be signed.
Cycle chicanes and staggered barriers
Cycle chicanes are, in most instances, impassable by mobility vehicles, in which case they should be replaced with an appropriate structure. Other forms of staggered barriers, such as those used to slow people down before a road, are very often equally impassable, especially for large mobility vehicles.
Undefined barriers, Motorcycle barriers, A frames, K barriers etc.
Motorcycle barriers are to be avoided. Often they form an intimidating, narrow gap. Frequently put in place to restrict the illegal access of motorcycle users, they should only ever be used after very careful consideration of the measured extent of the motorcycle problem, and after all other solutions have been considered. In some areas existing motorcycle barriers are no longer necessary as there is no longer a motorcycle problem: in these cases the barriers should be removed.
If no alternative is possible, the gap in the barrier should be adjusted to allow riders of large mobility vehicles to pass through. Mobility vehicles can legally be up to 85 cm wide so the gap should be at least this; and the same width should be allowed all the way up from the ground to enable room for handle bars, arm rests and other bodywork. The ground beneath should be level otherwise a greater width is needed. K barriers are often less intimidating and allow for various options to be chosen, such a shallow squeeze plate which is positioned higher off the ground: http://www.kbarriers.co.uk/
Stepping stones are a barrier to users of mobility vehicles, walkers who are less agile, and families with pushchairs. They should be replaced with a suitable alternative such as a footbridge (which, if not flush with the ground should have appropriate slopes at either end, not steps). If there are good reasons to retain the stepping stones, such as being listed by Historic England, a suitable alternative should be provided nearby, in addition to the stepping stones.
Stiles are a barrier to mobility vehicles, walkers who are less agile, and families with pushchairs. They should be replaced with a suitable alternative structure. If there are good reasons to retain the stile, such as it being listed by Historic England, then an alternative to the stile, such as a pedestrian gate, should be provided nearby in addition to the stile.
Urban areas and Kerbs
In urban areas people with reduced mobility may well be using pavement scooters which have low ground clearance. Where the path follows a footway (e.g. pavement) it should be sufficiently wide for large mobility vehicles, and free of obstructions. The provision and correct positioning of dropped kerbs at suitable places along the footway is essential. Every time the path passes over a kerb, a dropped kerb should be provided.
Disabled Ramblers March 2020