Trend Watch April 2022

‘I wanted that self-reliance back’ – disabled hikers forge a new path:

A growing movement of disabled people are taking steps to enable independent access to the natural world, writes Amanda Morris for the NY Times

The pandemic has brought a rise in outdoor recreation, with growing visitation numbers for national parks, however not all are equipped for accessibility. Disabled people are taking initiatives to improve independent access, including “publishing trail guides, establishing nonprofits to empower others through equipment, advocacy and training, and testifying before congress,” says Morris.

In the United States in April 2021, “disability activists testified at a hearing on Capitol Hill, in front of members of the House National Resources Committee, which oversees the Park Service, to push for greater accessibility in outdoor spaces and call attention to barriers in public parks.”

Many of the country’s national parks are now collaborating with disability organisations to improve accessibility – “increasing the width of a trail or removing obstructions or steps,” for example.

Some disabled people are writing guides with detailed accessibility information for other hikers, including “trail width, steepness, surface material, landmarks, obstacles like roots or boulders, places to rest, accessible bathrooms, cell phone reception and water sources,” says Syren Nagakyrie, who has completed close to 200 trail guides.

Access to resources such as outdoor mobility equipment and training can also be great barriers or sources of empowerment for disabled people in accessing the outdoors independently. A blind outdoors enthusiast and founder of the Team FarSight Foundation to empower visually impaired people to get outdoors, Trevor Thomas, “trained himself to make detailed maps, trace sign letters with his fingers and use trekking poles to hike the Appalachian trail alone.”

“While many outdoor enthusiasts have a mindset of conquering the outdoors by doing increasingly challenging hikes on ever higher peaks, some disabled hikers often take time to just appreciate the outdoors,” said Morris.

Read the full NY Times article.
Image: Photo by Romain Virtuel on Unsplash

Undersupply of footpaths – allocating equitable street use in Melbourne:

“The way people use our streets influences the liveability, equity, social interaction, environment and economy in our cities,” say RMIT and Monash University researchers in an article for Cities People Love.

The group’s recent working paper, ‘Street space allocation and use in Melbourne’s activity centres’ looked at the allocation and use by each transport mode in the city’s major activity centres, to identify where more equitable street space allocation could help different types of users.

Equitable street space allocation, they say, can support pedestrians, help increase uptake of alternative forms of transport, enable outdoor dining by converting street parking to ‘parklets,’ and contribute to “efforts to achieve broader health and environmental objectives associated with increasing active travel and reducing dependency on the private car.”

The researchers conducted a survey to look at how many people passed through various activity centres, and what form of transport they were using, as well as what portion of street space was allocated to each mode of transport.

The survey found that insufficient space was allocated to footpaths, compared to the quantity of pedestrians, while car parking, bus lanes, and bike lanes were oversupplied. The report suggests increasing footpath space in many activity centres, as well as offering greater protection for cyclists by installing Copenhagen style bicycle lanes to encourage more people to cycle.

This research emphasises that the context of individual centres is essential, as is developing a site-specific approach to address the street allocation needs of the local community. They emphasise that reallocation of street space should be research-informed to ensure a base of evidence and contribute to broader goals.

Read the complete article on Cities People Love.
Image: Savio Sebastian.

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Trend Watch February 2022

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