About this section
Nearly every journey we make involves walking, wheeling or cycling using the streets and pavements. Poor or a lack of provision as well as obstacles on our streets and pavements make these everyday journeys difficult or impossible for disabled people. This section sets out who is reponsible for our streets and pavements and what can be done to make journeys easier.
The Government Department responsible for most of our streets and pavements is the Department for Infrastructure (DfI). DfI is also responsible for improving the provision for cyclists.
Department for Communities
Department for Communities in partnership with local councils are responsible for taking forward “public realm” improvements to our town and city centres. This where the existing footpaths and street furniture are replaced usually with natural stone.
There are other agencies that can be responsible for some streets and pavements. These agencies include public bodies such as the Housing Executive as well as private landowners.
Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)
Despite nearly every journey requiring us to use streets and pavements, disabled people have little or no rights under the DDA to accessible pavements, crossings and cycling infrastructure.
Public sector Equality Duties
All public bodies in Northern Ireland must meet specific equality duties relating to disabled people, older people and others in carrying out its functions.
With regards to streets and pavements we should expect public bodies to meet these duties by:
- Ensuring that existing pavement and streets are maintained to ensure that disabled people and others can use them safely.
- Ensuring that new and upgraded pavement and streets (including new cycling infrastructure) meet best practice in inclusive design.
- Engaging with disabled people, older people and others in the design of new schemes to improve walking, wheeling and cycling journeys.
The Equality Commission
The Equality Commission are the body responsible for promoting and enforcing equality duties in Northern Ireland. If you believe that a public body has failed to meet these duties you should contact the Commission.
Visit the Equality Commission website.
Footpaths and pavements should be in good condition and wide enough for people walking and wheeling to pass each other comfortably.
Too often this is not the case and pavements are uneven, damaged and blocked or obstructed by things that shouldn’t be there.
Accessible crossings should be provided at every junction including a dropped kerb and appropriate tactile paving.
Controlled crossings such as Puffin or Toucan crossings are essential to enable people walking, wheeling and cycling to cross at busy roads. These crossings should be designed to be easily used by all pedestrians including tactile paving and allowing enough time for people to cross. All controlled crossings should be equipped with a tactile cone on the underside of the control box which will rotate when safe to cross.
Too often adequate crossing facilities have not been provided with a lack of dropped kerbs or tactile paving. Sometimes tactile paving has been installed incorrectly or has been damaged.
Cycling should be an activity for everyone including disabled people and older people. In urban areas cycling infrastructure should be separated from vehicles and pedestrians and be designed to be used easily by all types of cycles and cyclists.
Currently there is only limited dedicated cycling infrastructure in Northern Ireland. Too often cyclists and pedestrians have to share pavements, which doesn’t work for either.
There are a growing number of Greenways across Northern Ireland. Greenways are traffic free routes shared by people walking, wheeling and cycling.
For details of current Greenways available in Northern Ireland visit the NI Greenways website.
Pedestrians often find pavements blocked by cars parked on pavements. In Northern Ireland the police will only take action against pavement parking if it is deemed to be causing an obstruction.
Under legislation local councils in Northern Ireland should license all pavement cafes. However Councils here have issued very few licences and most cafes remain unlicensed and outside regulation.
Advertising Boards or A Boards are a common obstruction on our pavements. There are no regulations that allow shops and businesses to put these on the pavements but they are tolerated in most areas and rarely removed.
Reporting a problem with streets and pavements
If encounter a problem with a street or pavement you should report this to DfI Roads. This includes issues with the condition of the pavement, crossings or an obstruction on the pavement.
For more information about how to report a problem visit the NI Direct website.
Reporting a problem with a pavement café
If you have a problem with a pavement café obstructing the pavement you should report this to the Licensing Department of the local council.
For more information about contacting your local council visit the NI Direct website.
Reporting problems with parking on pavements
If you have a problem with vehicles parked on the pavement you should report this to the PSNI either by contacting the non-emergency telephone number 101 or using the “Report Now” option on the PSNI website.
Contacting local representatives
If you are having problems with pavements and streets it might be helpful to contact a local politician who can raise issues with the appropriate body on your behalf.
You can identify and contact your local representatives using the They Work for You website.
Shopmobility is a service which loans disabled people scooters and other mobility aids, usually to assist with access around town and city centres.
There are currently 12 schemes operating in Northern Ireland. You must become a member of the scheme before using the service. There may be a small charge for membership but using the equipment is usually free.
For more information about schemes in Northern Ireland visit the Shopmobility NI website.
Wheels for Wellbeing
If you would like more information about inclusive cycling including different types of cycles available why not visit the Wheels for Wellbeing website.
Disability Sports NI
Some local organisations including Disability Sports NI run taster sessions for disabled people wanting to cycle.
Visit the Disability Sports NI website.
Sustrans is an organisation that promotes walking, wheeling and cycling in Northern Ireland. Their website has details of cycle routes and Greenways in Northern Ireland.
Visit the Sustrans NI website.