Green wheelchair user symbols have been installed at two traffic lights in Tower Hamlets in a drive to raise awareness of disabled people in London.
The new symbol displays were prompted by disabled Olympic rower Captain Pete Reed, who won three Gold medals but was paralysed from the waist down by a spinal stroke in 2019. He worked closely with Transport for London (TfL) to raise awareness about the 1.2 million members of the disabled community in London.
Reed inaugurated the signal at a crossing near Tower Hill underground station on Friday, ahead of International Day of Persons with Disabilities tomorrow, Sunday.
“In one day, everything changed for me,” said Reed. “My life now as a full-time wheelchair user has a whole range of new demands, which can be dramatically helped by better access and transport for wheelchair users, just as there should also be for the wider disabled community.”
The new wheelchair user traffic signals were installed free of charge by Yunex Traffic at Tower Hill and Whitechapel in Tower Hamlets and also near Earl’s Court, King’s Cross and Liverpool Street Tube stations, all selected because they have step-free access.
“What are only five traffic lights to one Londoner represent progress, positivity and possibility to another… I hope this visibility in mainstream life makes more people feel comfortable about getting out in the city,” said Reed.
The signals, developed by TfL in collaboration with the Independent Disability Advisory Group and other disability campaigners, have two inclusive designs for the green traffic light, representing either a person using a manual wheelchair or electric wheelchair. The red stop lights remain unchanged.
Andy Lord, London’s Transport Commissioner, said: “It is vitally important that we do more to increase awareness of disabled Londoners across our city alongside continuing to improve services for people who have accessibility needs.
“These new traffic signals along with our commitment to looking at how we can help make traffic signals easier to use, our work to provide more stations with step-free access and to keep streets free from clutter are all part of many different ways that we’re making London a more accessible city for all.”
Attempting to make pedestrian crossings more accessible, TfL installed a temporary crossing at Manor Circus where people unable to use the push-button can call the pedestrian crossing using a mobile app instead.
TfL and Google are also working together to provide street view pictures of the inside of Tube stations in 2024 so that people with accessibility issues can better plan their journeys based on stations’ facilities, like toilets and lifts.