Camden disabled resident on fears over Haverstock Hill cycle lanes

Mik Scarlet, 55, from Camden Town

Mik Scarlet, 55, from Camden Town - Credit: Polly Hancock

A disabled Camden resident has called on the council to bridge the divide over the Haverstock Hill cycle lanes scheme to “make it work for everyone”.  

Mik Scarlet, 55, who is a full-time wheelchair user, said the town hall hasn’t considered the negative impacts of the plans on disabled residents who rely on driving to the hill.  

The plans would result in the removal of 66 resident parking bays and a 24% reduction in pay and display spaces.  

Having been subject to a legal challenge and then a town hall U-turn, the cycle lanes scheme, which would run between Prince of Wales Road to Pond Street, is now open for consultation. 

Mik called on the council to step in and address the split among residents and transport groups over the controversial project.  

The council said the scheme would encourage people to take up cycling, and make walking safer. 

Mik, both a broadcaster and an inclusion consultant, told the Ham&High: “My problem with the scheme is that it hasn’t been properly thought through.  

The scheme's design needed to be inclusive and accessible, Mik said

The scheme's design needed to be inclusive and accessible, Mik said - Credit: Polly Hancock

“Because it’s being done through the lens of the coronavirus crisis with emergency traffic order powers, it is being rolled out without the right sort of consultation and the right design.   

“It has not considered the negative impacts on disabled people.”

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As with many other disabled and elderly residents, Mik, from Camden Town, regularly visits Haverstock Hill in his car for shopping.  

The equality trainer uses a handcycle that he attaches to his wheelchair, similar to a tricycle, but it is not strong enough to get him up steep climbs like Haverstock Hill. A new, more powerful handcycle would him cost thousands of pounds.

Mik called for greater awareness of disabled people's needs

Mik called for greater awareness of disabled people's needs - Credit: Polly Hancock

“The thing that no one mentions is that it is a very steep hill,” Mik said.  

“Getting up is dangerous, and coming down is going to be lethal for some of us (disabled people), so even if I wanted to take my handcycle up there I couldn’t.  

“I’m a little confused as to why a hill that so many people I know might have to push a bike up because it’s so steep is the one that's getting the investment, when I can think of many other parts of Camden that could really do with great cycling infrastructure that would benefit lots more people.” 

Suggestions have been made for alternative flatter routes to Pond Street and the Royal Free Hospital via the east of Haverstock Hill.

The proposed bus bypasses – where the bus stop lies between the road and the bike lane, are dangerous for the visually impaired and could result in an accident – Mik said.  

“My problem is not necessarily just with the scheme, it's with rolling it out so quickly at a time when we're already finding out that other schemes have got design flaws,” he continued.

“We’re almost treating anyone who objects as if they're trying to object to the work to try and make London a nicer and greener place. We're not. We're saying if we do it, can we make it work for everyone?  

“At the moment everyone is pitting against each other and I think it’s time that the council stepped in and said let's not do that, let's try and get people talking and find a way to make it work for everybody.”  

Dialogue was needed to find a solution, Mik said

Dialogue was needed to find a solution, Mik said - Credit: Polly Hancock

As an advisor who works with Network Rail and TfL on inclusion and access for disabled people, Mik said he fears the council is opening itself up to further legal challenges if it fails to listen to “frustrated” and “angry” residents who feel ignored. 

“When you raise an issue, you’re always portrayed as being against something, but what I am for is getting it right first time and not hurrying it out, like a knee-jerk reaction and then it's wrong, making the lives of disabled people in our borough harder,” he said.   

“Camden is already quite a difficult place to live if you’re disabled, so we should be improving it, not possibly making it worse.”  

In response, Camden Council said that an equalities impact assessment will be carried out as part of the plans, and that residents can have their say as part of the consultation which runs until March 14.  

Cllr Adam Harrison, the town hall’s transport chief, said: “We want this scheme to encourage people who are less confident or who might have a disability to take up cycling and feel safe while doing so. 

“The five new pedestrian crossings we are proposing for the area would also make walking safer for people in the area.” 

"Can we make it work for everyone?"

"Can we make it work for everyone?" - Credit: Polly Hancock