‘Quick wins’ to improve accessibility of Peterborough city centre - but Queensgate entrance remains an issue

A number of ‘quick wins’ to improve the accessibility of Peterborough city centre are possible, according to a local sustainable transport charity.

Thursday, 29th July 2021, 4:55 am

Sustrans has highlighted some of the issues - and potential solutions - represented by the PT’s Peterborough Unlimited campaign which seeks to make the city centre a more welcoming place for people with disabilities or additional needs.

The campaign has exposed several issues which need tackling, including a lack of suitable toilets and parking and huge struggles to enter Queensgate from the rail station.

Peterborough Unlimited has received support from many members of the disability community, as well as politicians.

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Graham Barnes trying to navigate the steep underpass by Cowgate EMN-210406-101815009

And now Matthew Barber head of partnerships (Midlands and East) at Sustrans, has outlined some of the measures which can be introduced to make the city centre more accessible than it is now.

He said: “The Sustrans design and engineering team met at our regional office in Peterborough last week to undertake training on inclusive design. This training, which was also attended by a local partially sighted resident, and a wheelchair user, included an audit of the city centre using the healthy streets indicators.

“The findings of the team were that there are some quick wins, such as increasing the amount of seating and shade, improving the consistency of signage and removing street clutter, especially temporary clutter, such as bins and advertising boards.

“Conversely, there are some much more significant infrastructure issues which need to be remedied before access ‘for everyone’ is acceptable.”

Mr Barber then spoke about the difficulties for disabled people to access Queensgate from the station, an issue regularly highlighted by the PT despite both Queensgate’s centre director and the city council previously promising action.

The three options to enter the shopping centre from the station are: navigating the steep underpass towards Cowgate, using a car park lift before going across a footbridge, or crossing Bourges Boulevard and either navigating stairs or having to find an alternative entrance.

Mr Barber continued: “The two at-grade single phase crossings of Bourges Boulevard are very good, but for those with mobility difficulties they connect into steps (to get into Queensgate Shopping Centre); also, the footbridge link from the Perkins Yellow Car Park is fine from the car park side – there are lifts to all floors, but access into the upper levels of the shopping centre is via a stepped link – so someone with mobility impairments is left somewhat stranded on the bridge, or very large road crossings with complex motor vehicle movements, without dropped kerbs, which are also poorly maintained (entrance to the bus station off Crescent Bridge roundabout).

“Therefore, many pedestrians, but especially those with mobility difficulties, will use the underpass to access Cowgate – the underpass in itself would fail an Equality Impact Assessment now due to the gradients involved, and Cowgate is extremely challenging for anyone not in a car.

“The footpaths are very narrow, and pinch points are created where local restaurants have added outdoor seating. This is further exacerbated by large planters, advertising boards and illegally parked cars. If you are partially sighted, in a wheelchair, or pushing a pushchair, Cowgate is not an enjoyable experience.

Ironically, our recommendation, especially for Cowgate, was already discussed by the city council as part of their Emergency Active Travel Fund application – making Cowgate a vehicle restricted area so that only certain vehicles can access the street, and at certain times, would radically improve the street for everyone.

“There would be so much more space for people, in particular those who need it the most, rather than motor vehicles.”

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