Campaigners and disability advocates have called for the removal of  barriers across the borough, which they say makes walking and cycling harder and can discriminate against disabled people.

Campaign group Walk Ride Greater Manchester has identified and mapped more than 100 such barriers in Bolton, which include measures such as metal ‘chicane’ railings placed on cycle and walking routes.

Bolton Council says the barriers are sometimes needed to help tackle antisocial behaviour.

Government guidance for cycle routes says such barriers ‘should not be used’ as they ‘reduce the usability of a route for everyone’.

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Astley Bridge resident ‘dismayed’ at barrier installation

Astley Bridge resident and active travel campaigner Dr Grahame Cooper said he was taken by surprise after the installation of one such barrier on Rothwell Street in September.

Bolton Council says the route was being used by criminals to evade police, leading to the barriers – and that ‘most cycles’ can still get through.

Speaking to The Bolton News, 66-year-old Grahame said: “I was a bit dismayed when they suddenly put this barrier across just without any consultation or anything.

“I use it quite a bit, because for me it’s the main route to the hospital on the bike, and it’s the main route if you’re going down towards Salford on the Roe Green Loopline.”

Increase in littering blamed on barrier

The retired university professor says barriers such as these can ‘create a focal point for antisocial behaviour and littering’ – which he says has gotten worse since the barrier’s installation.

The Bolton News: Grahame says broken glass and shopping trolleys are now common sights at the barrier's locationGrahame says broken glass and shopping trolleys are now common sights at the barrier's location (Image: Dr Grahame Cooper)

He added: “One of the problems with putting these barriers in is that they tend to create a focal point for antisocial behaviour and littering.

“One of the problems that is there now since the barrier went in is that it’s strewn with broken glass.

“There’s actually a supermarket trolley there with empty beer bottles in it, and a lot of those beer bottles in it, and a lot of those beer bottles smashed on the ground – which was never a problem before this barrier went in.

The Bolton News: Broken glass surrounds the barrier – a problem Grahame says only started following the installationBroken glass surrounds the barrier – a problem Grahame says only started following the installation (Image: Dr Grahame Cooper)

“That means now I have to dismount and maybe even lift my bike through. I have a bit of a back problem, so it can be a bit of an issue if I have to carry my bike because of the broken glass – the last thing you want is a puncture.”

Disability campaigners call for removal of barriers

Charity Wheels for Wellbeing is a nationwide group campaigning to improve access to cycling for disabled people.

Campaigns and policy manager Kay Inckle said she thinks the barriers are ‘discriminatory’ and should be removed, as they make it harder for people to use routes.

The Bolton News: Disabled cyclists can use adapted cycles, such as handcycles - though they can be more difficult to manoeuvre through barriersDisabled cyclists can use adapted cycles, such as handcycles - though they can be more difficult to manoeuvre through barriers (Image: TfL)

She said: “Barriers like the chicane installed at Rothwell Street are discriminatory and prevent disabled cyclists, and potentially others with protected characteristics such as older people, from accessing the public realm.

“They also often prevent disabled people who use larger mobility aids and parents with large buggies from passing through.

“Barriers like these should be being removed, not installed. Other measures such as increased policing in the area or CCTV should be considered.

“Crime prevention measures should not discriminate against groups with protected characteristics.”

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Council says Rothwell Street barrier ‘expected to be temporary’

Bolton Council confirmed that it did not carry out an equality impact assessment – a process designed to ensure that projects are not discriminatory – before the barrier's installation.

However, the council said it expected the barrier to be a temporary solution.

The Bolton News: Rothwell Street pictured before the barrier was installedRothwell Street pictured before the barrier was installed (Image: Google)

A spokesperson for Bolton Council said: “The area had been subjected to a prolonged period of antisocial behaviour and criminality and people were using the route at the end of Rothwell Street to evade police officers.

“Working with Greater Manchester Police, the council installed the temporary barriers at the end of Rothwell Street to assist the police in tackling the antisocial behaviour which was blighting the local community.

“Installing the barriers is not an action taken lightly but there is still access for pedestrians and most cycles and it is expected that the barriers will only be a temporary measure.

“The design guidance for cycle infrastructure states that barriers should only be used if there is ‘a persistent and significant problem of antisocial moped or motorcycle access that cannot be controlled through periodic policing’ which is the case here.

Barriers ‘a flagrant disregard of wheelchair users’

Ben Horrigan, of active travel campaign group Walk Ride Greater Manchester, said: “Barriers that do not comply with the latest government guidelines on cycling infrastructure that have been adopted by Greater Manchester councils are not just inconvenient for cyclists and pedestrians – they are discriminatory.

“We have mapped non-compliant barriers across all boroughs of Greater Manchester, and we are calling on the councils to remove them as soon as possible.

“Failure to make cycle routes and footways accessible represents a flagrant disregard for users of wheelchairs and non-standard cycles and goes against the Equality Act 2010.

“Furthermore, removing the existing barriers will be a crucial step in encouraging a modal shift away from short car journeys and towards active travel.”

Active travel commissioner working on long-term solution

Greater Manchester’s active travel commissioner, Dame Sarah Storey, said she would work with Bolton Council and the police to find a different solution to the barriers installed at Rothwell Street.

The Bolton News: Dame Sarah Storey said balancing competing interests is 'incredibly difficult'Dame Sarah Storey said balancing competing interests is 'incredibly difficult' (Image: TfGM)

The commissioner added: “Ensuring walking, wheeling and cycling routes are accessible for everyone is a key principle of the Action Travel Mission and a priority as we build a fully integrated Bee Network, where active modes are prioritised.

“Occasionally, there are circumstances where measures to restrict hostile vehicles or motorbikes are required and the usual minimum width of 1.5m for active travel access has to be revised down.

“I am saddened to hear of the level of anti-social behaviour and other road crime being committed at this location. Dangerous behaviours, such as these, are also a barrier for people walking, wheeling or cycling their short journeys as they don't feel safe. 

“Trying to balance competing interests can be incredibly difficult, especially as we are very aware that a narrower opening may cause access problems to parents with double buggies, cargo cycles or other non-standard cycles.

“I have been advised the barrier installed at this location is a temporary measure and will be investigating how I can work with the police and local authority to find a long-term solution.”

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