New barriers on walkways blocking more than errant cyclists; could affect those with disabilities

Railings and kerbs are obstacles to users of wheelchairs and mobility aids as well

Bright yellow barriers installed on walkways at two housing estates last week may be hindering more than errant cyclists.

Photos circulated online of concrete kerbs at a ramp leading to an overhead bridge in Bedok North and railings at a footpath in Marsiling have sparked outrage after netizens pointed out that they may hamper wheelchair access.

A spokesman for the East Coast-Fengshan Town Council told The Straits Times that the kerbs were erected last week as a pilot interim measure after complaints against reckless cyclists.

She said: "This area is a frequently-used intersection for pedestrians, joggers and cyclists.

"Pedestrians and joggers shared that there were cases of near-misses where cyclists did not dismount and nearly collided with them."

Existing signage informing cyclists to dismount at the ramp has been ineffective, she added, saying that the Town Council is monitoring the situation and gathering feedback from residents and path users.

Railings were erected at Marsiling Drive last week to prevent motorcyclists from using the pedestrian footpath. However, they are an added obstacle to wheelchair users and those using mobility aids.
Railings were erected at Marsiling Drive last week to prevent motorcyclists from using the pedestrian footpath. However, they are an added obstacle to wheelchair users and those using mobility aids. PHOTO: MARSILING-YEW TEE TOWN COUNCIL

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Marsiling-Yew Tee Town Council said the railings were installed to prevent the access of motorcyclists, who render the footpaths unsafe for pedestrians.

While both town councils showed videos of people in wheelchairs being pushed through the barriers, Disabled People's Association executive director Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills said navigating them independently would be difficult for wheelchair users.

"Those using mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs, which are bigger in general, will be unlikely to get past this obstacle," she said.

Mr Warren Chew, managing director of Falcon Mobility, which distributes mobility scooters and motorised wheelchairs, said more than 600 of these were sold last year.

"Our urban infrastructure planners need to be more aware that manual wheelchairs are not the only mobility aids used by people with disabilities," he said.

Paralympic swimmer Theresa Goh, 29, said she understands where the authorities are coming from, but navigating such barricades is "cumbersome and a hindrance" for those using mobility aids like herself. She pointed out that the kerbs in Bedok lie at the bottom of a slope, which makes it even more difficult for wheelchair users.

Bedok resident and housewife Annie Ho, 59, said the area has many elderly residents who use mobility aids. "I see them trying to go through the barriers and it is difficult," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'New barriers blocking more than errant cyclists'. Print Edition | Subscribe