New pedestrian bridge faces criticism for design

Take note – story published 1 year ago

On June 5, Latvian Railways solemnly unveiled a new railway crossing – a pedestrian bridge on Ezera Street. However, on the first day, it has already been sharply criticized, and complaints have been made on social networks, because some people could not cross the bridge when they came to it, Latvian Television reported on June 6.

When freight trains are transhipped, Ezera Street's railway crossing can be closed for hours. The pedestrian bridge had long been needed here. It has finally been built, but it is extremely difficult for people in wheelchairs or mothers with children in a stroller to navigate it.

Representatives of the Alliance of People with Disabilities and their Friends "Apeirons" saw a number of signs that the developer had tried to make it at least partially accessible as possible.For example, the steps are partly covered with metal plates so canes or heels don't get stuck.

However, it would be dangerous for a person in a wheelchair to move on the steep rails, said Jurģis Briedis, environmental accessibility expert for the Apeirons association.

“No, it must not be done under any circumstances. I wouldn't go there with children's prams either. It's not safe or possible,” the expert said.

Briedis said that it would be best for such a bridge to have ramps in place of the rails. Latvian Railways said it usually plans ramps but there has been no possibility here due to the limited space. Construction meets the environmental accessibility requirements set out in the regulatory enactments, said Latvian Railways representative Agnese Līcīte.

“As you see, this bridge has two so-called vertical hoists, or elevators, which enable people in wheelchairs, parents with strollers or anyone with difficulty in overcoming the stairs to cross the tracks,” Līcīte said.

Experience has shown that such hoists don't work more often than they do. This is also confirmed by a study carried out last year by the Consumer Rights Protection Centre (PTAC) on a number of such elevators.

"Of the 10 lifting platforms we tested, none worked according to their intended purpose. As if it were formally, it was as if some requirements were met, but functionally a person with a difficulty of movement could not use it in practice," explained PTAC spokeswoman Sanita Gertmane.

Latvian Railways promises to guard and monitor its lifts so that they remain in order for use. It is not planned to re-construct the stairs at the moment, because for the project co-financed by the European Funds is not allowed to make such changes for five years.

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