Sadiq Khan forced to STOP creation of more colourful zebra crossings

Sadiq Khan forced to STOP creation of more colourful zebra crossings

November 4, 2021

Sadiq Khan is forced to STOP the creation of more colourful zebra crossings in London due to visually-impaired people finding them ‘PAINFUL to look at’

  • The Asphalt Art Project was dreamt up to turn London into an outdoor gallery
  • But it left some disable people in physical pain over the extremely bright hues
  • Now after a coalition of disability causes wrote to him, Sadiq Khan has acted
  • He has been forced to temporarily halt any further crossings while investigating 

Sadiq Khan has immediately halted the installation of controversial colourful art crossings in London – after a coalition of groups representing millions of disabled people said they were dangerous.

The collective – made up of organisations including the Royal National Institute for the Blind, Guide Dogs and Scope – say the so-called Asphalt Art Project hurt some people.

Their open letter to the Mayor revealed some visually impaired people with light sensitivity found the extremely bright artwork ‘painful to look at’.

It added that those with learning disabilities were likely to find it difficult to interpret abstract artwork as a crossing.

Mr Khan, 51, responded quickly announcing he had moved to ‘introduce a temporary pause on the installation of any new colourful crossing on its network’.

He admitted: ‘I am concerned to read about the issues highlighted in your letter and the negative impact that these types of crossing can have on disabled people.’

The haulting of the project – whose cost is unknown – could be something of an embarrassment to the Mayor who had unveiled them with much fanfare.

In May 2021 he announced he was ‘Turning central London into a huge outdoor art gallery’ with London designer Yinka Ilori.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, joined award-winning artist Yinka Ilori to unveil a series of eye-catching street art commissions on Tottenham Court Road as part of London Design Festival, and supported by Bloomberg. He was also joined by photographer and filmmaker, Rankin, and Night Czar, Amy Lame,

In May 2021 he announced he was ‘Turning central London into a huge outdoor art gallery’ with London designer Yinka Ilori

And posing for pictures with the artist in September he said: ‘London is the culture capital of the world, and Yinka’s bright and bold pedestrian crossings represent our city beautifully.

‘They show off our vibrant creative spirit and are the perfect way to launch the autumn season of my Let’s Do London campaign.

‘There are so many great festivals, events and activities taking place in the capital in the coming months and we are ready to welcome and entertain visitors from across the UK and around the world.’ 

But the Transport For All-fronted coalition immediately noticed problems for many disabled people.

In the open letter to the Mayor, they said: ‘We are writing to set out our significant concerns regarding the safety and accessibility of the ‘Asphalt Art Project’ and our objections to the engagement process for these schemes.

‘Crossing the road safely is an essential part of negotiating our built environment and accessing our local community. The provision of safe crossing points affects everyone’s ability and desire to use their local streets, and this is especially crucial in enabling disabled people to make journeys as a pedestrian.

‘The past 18 months have seen a great number of changes made to the streetspace. 

‘As London adapted to the pandemic, the streets were transformed; with widened pavements, traffic calming measures, additional space for cycling, and more. Many of these changes were rolled out at pace, and implemented without due engagement with disabled people, and in many instances failed to identify negative impacts and mitigate against them.

Artist Yinka Ilori’s eye-catching street art is unveiled on Tottenham Court Road as part of London Design Festival

Disability campaigners say the designs are dangerous for some and even cause some pain

‘This has been thoroughly discussed and reflected upon, and in March this year TfL issued an updated version of their guidance for Boroughs on Streetspace which stressed the importance of engaging with disabled people.

‘Given the many examples and opportunities for learning, it is disappointing to see another scheme repeating these patterns. The Asphalt Art Project demonstrates exactly what happens when meaningful engagement does not take place: it sadly results in schemes that are neither accessible nor inclusive.

‘We have set out the impact these schemes will have on disabled people, the contradiction between these schemes and the welcome safety commitments made in Vision Zero, and our concerns regarding the engagement and Equality Impact Assessment processes for these crossings. We hope that your reply will address these issues, and will clarify whether London truly is open to everyone – including disabled Londoners and visitors.’

Mr Khan was swift to respond and insisted there had been consultation with disability organisations before they were approved.

But he admitted: ‘I am concerned to read about the issues highlighted in your letter and the negative impact that these types of crossing can have on disabled people.

‘I would like to assure you that the Greater London Authority worked closely with the London Borough of Camden and the City of London Corporation, who are responsible for the road crossings used, to deliver these projects and that public safety was at the forefront of the project partner teams. Each Highway Authority completed an Equalities Impact Assessment and a Road Safety Assessment and a number of disability organisations and charities were consulted. As a result of feedback received, specific adaptations were made to improve the designs of the crossings.

‘In light of growing concern about the negative impacts of colourful crossings on disabled people, and new research recently received by Transport for London (TfL), I have asked TfL to introduce a temporary pause on the installation of any new colourful crossing on its network. TfL will also be advising boroughs to temporarily pause any future colourful crossing projects. Over the next 12 months, TfL will be developing new guidance for London on the use of artwork at crossings and will undertake meaningful engagement with organisations representing the interests of disabled people. I hope you and Transport for All will agree to be a part of this.

I hope that my response reassures you that I have listened to the concerns raised by disabled people and I am committed to making London’s streets inclusive for all.

‘I am passionate about making London open for everyone and that includes improving the transport network and London’s streets, making them accessible for older and disabled people and removing barriers where they exist.

‘The colourful crossings installed on Tottenham Court Road and in the City of London are part of a worldwide project called Asphalt Art. The aim is to transform and revitalise public spaces through the power of art, drawing Londoners and visitors back to central London.’

The Mayor of London’s Office has been approached for comment. 

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