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Alastair On The Recumbrent

Barriers on Newcastle section of National Cycle Network Route to be modified following legal challenge by disabled cyclist Alastair Fulcher

Alastair Fulcher, a disabled cyclist who relies on using a recumbent tricycle for transport, has won his campaign against a decision to install barriers on the Newcastle section of the National Cycle Network Route.

Posted on 28 March 2024

The barriers will be modified in consultation with Alastair and following a review by accessibility specialists.

Alastair challenged the decision to install the barriers because they were preventing him from accessing the cycle path. 

Alastair, aged 61, of Wallsend, has Parkinson’s disease which affects his balance, core strength, and mobility. 

Alastair Fulcher.

In 2023 Urban Green Newcastle installed the barriers at the East and West side of the cycle path at Pottery Bank (known as National Cycle Network Route 72 (NCN Route 72). A second barrier was installed despite a complaint by Alastair regarding the first.

Newcastle City Council and Urban Green Newcastle argued that the cycle path was attracting motorcycles and the barriers were intended to deter them. 
 However, Alastair pointed out that this was indirect discrimination as it prevented him and other disabled cyclists who are reliant on using equipment such as recumbent tricycles, a two-metre cycle widely used by disabled people, from using the path.   

Barriers on the cycle path.

In a legal letter sent by Leigh Day human rights solicitor Ryan Bradshaw, Alastair argued that Newcastle City Council and Urban Green Newcastle were in breach of the Equality Act, as well as the right to freedom of movement outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Following this correspondence, the Council has agreed to modify the barriers on the path in order to make it accessible.  

Alastair on his recumbent tricycle.

Alastair said: 

"It's a fact that the UK's cycling infrastructure is awful compared to the continent. Certainly around Newcastle barriers such as this one are common. I have focused on this barrier because it is on NCN Route 72, the supposed premier route from sea to sea. I can't imagine what continental visitors think of this cycleway.

"Various arguments in favour of barriers to control illegal motorcycle use don't stand up to scrutiny, Indeed a recent article on the SUSTRANS website points to the opposite being the case.

"I have mixed feelings about agreeing to an out-of-court settlement, I have a nagging suspicion that local authorities will not improve their behaviour around this issue until such time one of them is taken to court and loses with the award of a substantial cash settlement. My focus for the moment is getting NCN Route 72 west of Pottery Bank accessible to all legitimate users."

A spokesperson for the disabled people's cycling organisation Wheels for Wellbeing said:

“It’s fantastic that these discriminatory barriers which are preventing use of a National Cycle Network route by Disabled people will be modified. Congratulations to Alastair and to Ryan for their success in this campaign. We hope that councils across the UK will begin to recognise that barriers which prevent legitimate users from accessing public spaces and public rights of way are unlawful, and that we’ll see more routes opened to Disabled people over the course of 2024.”

Ryan Bradshaw, who represented Alastair, said: 

“I am delighted that Alastair has achieved his aim of getting the barriers removed and highlighting the indirect discrimination that was caused. Institutions responsible for transport infrastructure need to do more to ensure that the rights of disabled people are respected and that planning decisions are not made without fully consulting with members of the disabled community. I hope that Alastair’s example will inspire others to take action where they feel discrimination has occurred.”  

Ryan Bradshaw
Discrimination Employment Human rights

Ryan Bradshaw

Ryan advises on human rights, discrimination and employment law

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