Disabled community calls for safer detours when Auckland trails are blocked
Auckland Transport’s contractor traffic management plan must include access to an on-ramp or safe detour around a construction work area if the road is blocked. Photo / Provided
A blind woman in Auckland says her life is in danger as construction works blocking footpaths and accessibility advocates are calling on Auckland Transport to enforce stricter guidelines for its contractors.
Rhonda Comins told the Herald she was walking down a path in Newmarket when she suddenly encountered an unexpected obstacle.
With no idea where the touchpad went, Comins said she was in a panicked state.
Going around the obstacle meant taking the main road in the middle of traffic, Comins said.
“I’m usually independent and like to be like that, this time around I felt like it was taken away from me and I was put in danger.
“I had to get around the obstacle on my own – no worker came to my aid.”
Contractors are required to adhere to the Code of Practice for Temporary Traffic Management – “which ensures that the traffic management plan (which we approve) is in place for pedestrian users of all abilities (i.e. say the use of ramps),” a spokesperson for Auckland Transport said.
“If there is a sidewalk, wheelchair and pram users can access it (ramp); or there must be signage for pedestrians to use the other side.
“If it is not completely safe to cross the road, traffic controllers at work should help pedestrians.”
The spokesperson said the agency is keen to hear from anyone who has encountered issues so it can escalate them to its maintenance teams.
“Everyone’s safety is always our top priority.
“We will ensure that we continue to work with staff and contractors to ensure they are aware of any accessibility issues.”
Accessible and sustainable transport advocate Tim Adriaansen said Auckland Transport’s contractors had refrained from putting up signs in the road with traffic so they put it on the aisles which was a problem for many users.
“If the trail or bike path is blocked for any reason, a safe alternate route must be provided.
“Auckland Transport should audit more traffic management operations. But problems are so often identified on the streets of Auckland that it would be better to improve the training and guidelines followed by contractors.
“A lot of the time, entrepreneurs just don’t think about the needs of people traveling outside of a car, and that needs to change.”
Juliana Carvalho, campaign manager for Access Matters, said Comins’ struggle was not “unique”.
“Local communities should be notified in advance if construction or closures are planned on a footpath or crosswalk, as this impacts accessibility. Safe and accessible alternative routes should be provided and clearly communicated .
“People with access needs have the right to navigate the areas they live in safely, just like anyone else.”