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'Some kind of penalty may be necessary' - new campaign may mean fines for blocking footpaths

A new disabilities campaign launched yesterday will see increased efforts made to keep Dublin’s footpaths clear for those with disabilities.

blur2 Source: Twitter/Citizen Wolf

DUBLIN’S NEWEST ACCESSIBILITY campaign looks set to show it has teeth by removing blockages from footpaths, and possibly introducing fines for transgressors.

The Make Way Dublin campaign was launched yesterday by Dublin City Council (DCC) in conjunction with a variety of disabilities groups with the aim of making the city more accessible for those living with disabilities.

The campaign struck a note of controversy prior to its launch at the weekend with Lord Mayor Brendan Carr suggesting that citizens might be asked to vote on whether or not people with disabilities should be allowed access cycle lanes – a hoax statement designed to create awareness regarding leaving obstacles in other people’s way.

As part of the campaign’s launch, DCC said that its inspectors “will now have a responsibility to police this issue, working with local businesses to reduce the number of sandwich boards outside premises, promote clear pathways, and removing any major on-street obstacles in order for everyone to have better access to the city”.

So what exactly does that mean? Well, fundamentally it means inspectors exercising powers that they already have – ones that are rarely used – according to Carr.

“We already have that ability,” he told TheJournal.ie. Bikes locked to poles in particular seem to be a bugbear.

If a bike is locked, and it’s not in the right designated parking spot, and it’s causing an obstruction, then we have the rights to remove it.
We haven’t ever done it because we want people cycling too, but if people are going to abuse the system then something has to be done.

The responsibility for this enforcement will fall on the shoulders of Dublin City wardens such as litter inspectors. How many of these inspectors are involved is not currently known.

“Bikes, bins, sandwich boards – if they’ve been there too long we’re going to start removing them,” says Carr.

However, when the subject of fines is broached the Lord Mayor is keen to dampen such talk, insisting that the campaign is more about “the carrot than the stick”, albeit without denying that such deterrents are a possibility.

Chief executive of the Disabilities Federation of Ireland (one of many advocacy groups to throw their weight behind the campaign) John Dolan does not shy away from the subject however.

90276829_90276829 John Dolan Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

“If you get compliance from people then you don’t need fines, but my sense is there are always people who need to be encouraged a little bit more, so I think some kinds of fines or penalties may be necessary,” he told TheJournal.ie.

If you talk to people who struggle to use pavements unencumbered, or who can’t find disabled parking spaces, they find that some people just don’t care.

They carry on like they’re more important than everyone else. Those kinds of people may need different forms of persuasion.

“We want to create awareness among people, that’s what the campaign is focused upon,” says Carr, however.

But if something is hazardous, or creating a hazard, it will be gone, your bike will be gone. And then people will get the message pretty quickly.
We have the power to do it, we have the power to cut that lock open and dump that bike. It will be treated the same as a piece of rubbish that’s getting in the way.

shutterstock_532116490 Source: Shutterstock/Bancha Photography

While this may sound quite hardline, Carr did acknowledge that what happens to a bike that has been cut loose is not so clear-cut.

“It may end up in a pound, I can’t say, that part isn’t up to us.”

One group of obstacles that is being targeted that may surprise the average passerby is trees – specifically unkempt ones.

“If you have impaired sight, you are walking on a footpath and suddenly you get a branch in the eye,” says Carr.

Anything like that – you either keep it cut, or we’ll remove it. We may not have done it before, we’ll be doing it now.

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