Sadiq Khan has immediately halted the installation of controversial colourful art crossings in London – after a coalition of groups representing millions of disabled people said they were dangerous.

The collective – made up of organisations including the Royal National Institute for the Blind, Guide Dogs and Scope – say the so-called Asphalt Art Project hurt some people.

Open letter to the Mayor revealed that some visually impaired people with light sensitivities found the bright artwork ‘painful’.

It was further stated that people with learning disabilities may find it difficult or impossible to interpret abstract artworks as crossings.

Khan, 51, quickly responded, announcing that he had taken the decision to ‘introduce an interim pause on any new colourful crossings on its network’.

He said, “I am concerned to read your letter and the negative effect that these types crossing can have upon disabled people.”

The Mayor, who had revealed them with great fanfare, could find it embarrassing to have the project hauled away.

He announced in May 2021 that he was ‘Turning Central London into a huge outdoor gallery of art’ with London designer Yinka Ilori.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, joined award-winning artist Yinka Ilori to unveil a series of eye-catching street art commissions on Tottenham Court Road as part of London Design Festival, and supported by Bloomberg. He was also joined by photographer and filmmaker, Rankin, and Night Czar, Amy Lame,

Sadiq Khan was joined by Yinka Ilor, the London Mayor, to unveil a series street art commissions on Tottenham Court Road. This was part of London Design Festival and was supported Bloomberg. He was joined by Amy Lame, Night Czar and photographer, Rankin.

In May 2021 he announced he was ¿Turning central London into a huge outdoor art gallery¿ with London designer Yinka Ilori

He announced in May 2021 that he was ‘Turning Central London into a huge outdoor gallery of art’ with London designer Yinka Ilori

He also posed for photos with the artist in September, saying that London is the cultural capital of the world. Yinka’s bold and bright pedestrian crossings are a beautiful representation of our city.

They are a perfect way to launch the autumn campaign of my Let’s Do London campaign.

“There are many great festivals, events, and activities taking place in London in the coming months. We are ready to entertain visitors from all over the UK and the world.” 

But the Transport For All coalition noticed immediate problems for many people with disabilities.

In an open letter addressed to the Mayor, they stated that: “We are writing to express our concerns regarding the safety of the ‘Asphalt Art Project’ and to object to the engagement process for these projects.

Safely crossing the road is an essential part in navigating our built environment, and accessing our local communities. Safe crossing points are essential for disabled people to be able to use the streets safely.

“The past 18 months have seen many changes in the streetspace. 

“As London adjusted to the pandemic, streets were transformed with widened sidewalks, traffic calming measures and additional space for cyclists. Many of these changes were implemented quickly and without consulting disabled people. In many cases, they failed to identify and mitigate negative impacts.

Artist Yinka Ilori's eye-catching street art is unveiled on Tottenham Court Road as part of London Design Festival

London Design Festival: Artist Yinka Ilori unveils her eye-catching street art on Tottenham Court Road

Disability campaigners say the designs are dangerous for some and even cause some pain

Disability campaigners claim the designs pose a danger to some people and can even cause pain.

“This has been extensively discussed and reflected upon, so in March this year TfL released an updated version of their guidance to Boroughs on Streetspace. This highlighted the importance of engaging disabled people.

“Considering the many opportunities and examples, it is disappointing that another scheme repeats these patterns. The Asphalt Art Project shows what happens when meaningful engagement is not achieved: it results in schemes which are neither accessible nor inclusive.

“We have identified the adverse effects these schemes will have upon disabled people, the contradiction between them and the welcome safety promises made in Vision Zero, and our concerns about the engagement process and Equality Impact Assessment for these crossings. We hope that your reply will address these issues, and will clarify whether London truly is open to everyone – including disabled Londoners and visitors.’

Mr Khan quickly responded and said that there had been consultation with disability organizations before they were approved.

He said that he was concerned by the issues in the letter and the negative consequences these types of crossings could have on disabled people.

“I can assure you that the Greater London Authority worked closely alongside the London Borough of Camden, and the City of London Corporation to deliver these projects. Public safety was at the forefront of all project partner teams. Each Highway Authority completed an Equalities Impact Assessment as well as a Road Safety Assessment. A number of charities and disability organizations were also consulted. Based on the feedback, modifications were made to improve the design of the crossings.

“In light of growing concern over the negative effects of colourful crossings for disabled people, and new research received by Transport for London (TfL), i have asked TfL for a temporary halt to the installation of any new colourful crossings on its network. TfL will also advise boroughs to temporarily halt any future colourful crossing projects. TfL will provide guidance to London over the next 12 months on the use and appropriateness of artwork at crossings. It will also engage meaningfully with organizations representing the needs of disabled people. I hope Transport for All, you and I will agree to participate in this.

I hope you find my reply reassuring. I have listened carefully to the concerns of disabled people. I am committed to making London’s streets more inclusive for all.

‘I am passionate about making London open for everyone and that includes improving the transport network and London’s streets, making them accessible for older and disabled people and removing barriers where they exist.

Asphalt Art is a global project that has colourful crossings in London’s City of London and Tottenham Court Road. The goal is to revive and transform public spaces by using art to draw Londoners back to central London.

The Mayor’s Office of London has been contacted for comment.