Local authorities need to address the “proliferation” of street clutter and focus on making public places more accessible for people with disabilities, according to Independent Senator Victor Boyhan.
Senator Boyhan was speaking ahead of the launch of his new campaign, Equal Access to our Streets.
He said that the volume of advertising boards, bins, bollards, raised planters and other pavement clutter is “making many streets an obstacle course for blind and partially sighted residents and those with other disabilities.
“Citizens with disabilities have as much right to freely traverse our streets safely as anyone else,” he said.
“A-boards and other street clutter, like carelessly arranged café tables, can deter many from walking outdoors.
“They can appear without warning often with no consistency in where they’re placed, so people just walk into them, either hurting or injuring themselves.”
“I want businesses to prosper, however our streets should not be an obstacle course to be negotiated.
“Advertising boards could be replaced by boards mounted on a business’ premises, not on our public footpaths.”
Boyhan says that he has received correspondence from the Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind who have said that “many visually impaired people felt so anxious about their safety in public places that they ended up isolated in their homes.
“Bollards, bins, cars parked on pavements and over cluttered open spaces were among the other obstacles commonly encountered and feared.”
Boyhan says that advertising boards should be banned from public streets and wants to reinforce existing legislation that makes it an office to wilfully obstruct free passage along a road or street.
“I am calling on Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to commence an immediate audit of all its temporary ‘Spaces for People’ (Covid measures) before they are made permanent,” he says.
“The decisions taken could have serious long-term implications for the citizens of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown in terms of how they access their public spaces and amenities.”
“The safety of pedestrians, particularly those who are more vulnerable, must be the deciding factor when determining changes to the public realm.
“Illegal parking in disability car parking bays must be stamp out – ideally through a combination of fines and penalty points,” he says.
“I expect the Council to maintain a log of licences or consents in relation to the placement of street furniture on the public footpath or in front of commercial premises, similar to other councils.
“Any deviation or breach of conditions must mean the licence is withdrawn.”
I want to work with dlr disability officer in a proactive way to ensure everyone has equal access to the public realm.