Disabled Wembley cyclist calls for more inclusivity on Brent's roads

Fatima Chizari on an adapted bike

Fatima Chizari, 43. - Credit: Fatima Chizari

A Wembley cyclist says more needs to be done to support mobility-impaired road users in Brent.

Fatima Chizari, 43, who cannot move her right arm and leg, said cycling in the borough is “tiring” for people like her who use tricycles and adapted bikes in narrow lanes.

She shared her story after the Brent Cycling Campaign warned the council that its plan to redevelop Carlton Vale must cater for people with disabilities.

“I am confident in myself, but when I am on the bike, that confidence goes down,” Fatima said. “I see people with bikes in the park and I think to myself, I wish that was me.

“People should be more aware of a person who uses a non-standard bike.

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“At times I really enjoy riding miles and miles but then issues come up and I think, ‘not again!’”

She explained that her leg-powered e-tricycle is too wide to fit through some bollards in the borough and kerbs present adapted cycle users with difficulties which other road users do not face.

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Fatima said: “A stepped kerb is a big challenge for me.

“I always get into trouble with that because I need to get off the bike and back on again, and that is really tiring.

“I would like to go to different places and meet other cyclists.

“I cannot do that, and so far, I have not seen any improvements and my concerns have not been heard.”

Fatima, who has been disabled from birth, said she first used a bike at seven years old, but did not pluck up the courage to get back into cycling until last year.

Brent Cycling Campaign coordinator Sylvia Gauthereau – who uses a cargo bike - explained the cycle lanes on Carlton Vale are too narrow for riders with wide vehicles.

She said: “It’s hard to overtake on an adapted cycle.

“If you are on a regular bike you can get out into the main road and overtake, but inclusive cycling shouldn’t be like that.

“What we want is to have it wide and smooth enough, and so that you don’t have to dismount.

“I think we need to look at it as the overall scheme, which is to turn Carlton Vale into a destination."

Brent Cycling Campaign said the plans for Carlton Vale currently involve shared spaces between pedestrians and cyclists, which is "sounding alarm bells as they are rarely done properly”.

The campaign also said anything built should follow a “social model of disability” to break down the barriers which prevent mobility-impaired people from cycling.

The scheme is still in its design and consultation phases, with work due to start in summer 2021.

Brent Council’s lead member for regeneration, property and planning, Cllr Shama Tatler, said the council is reaching out to disability groups in Brent and London, including The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), to hear a broad range of perspectives on the scheme.

Cllr Tatler said: “Initial plans for Carlton Vale Boulevard include a three-metre wide, dual-direction cycle lane which will be able to accommodate wider, pedal-powered modes of transport.

“The proposed dropped kerbs along the Boulevard would provide connections from both the carriageway and pedestrian footpath.

“The design team will be developing the proposals to be Disability Discrimination Act compliant.”

Cllr Tatler also said: “We recognise that the people who call Brent home, and who pass through the borough, have a wide range of different needs, including mobility-impaired cyclists.

“We take these different needs into account when designing a scheme and will seek to accommodate them within the constraints of an area."

READ MORE: Broken lift leaves disabled Neasden woman still in ‘lockdown’

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