On Monday 22nd July five NFBUK members walked along Downing Street to number 10 to present an appeal to the Prime Minister for an independent inquiry into shared space.
Sarah Gayton’s initiative was led by Andrew Hodgson (our new President), with Karl Farrell (Treasurer), London member Councillor Janice Long and Charlotte Nickson a student from Coventry University. Charlotte took the documents and knocked at the door of number 10 and to everyone’s surprise, when it opened her guide dog Layla led her straight inside.
The documents included an endorsement letter from Lord Chris Holmes, the blind ex-Paralympic swimming champion who is now a representative of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Below is the letter from Andrew Hodgson our own President:
Dear Prime Minister,
Blind people are being progressively excluded from their town streets which they may have walked for many years. This is being done by removing safe pavements, pedestrian crossings and sometimes traffic signals in order to speed the flow of vehicles along town streets by removing the need for them to stop at red lights.
Traffic engineers claim that these measures reduce congestion and can increase traffic flow by over 10%, and that pedestrian movement will remain satisfactory because all motorists will drive slowly and stop whenever they see a pedestrian who wishes to cross the road. This shared space theory is largely ignored by motorists who are mostly unwilling to stop voluntarily, so in busy times many able-bodied pedestrians have to wait over five minutes for a gap in the traffic flow which will allow them to dash across the road.
Blind and many other vulnerable people will not dare to attempt to cross such a traffic flow and are therefore effectively excluded from these shared streets, and have to find other suitable centres to walk meet and shop.
Lord Holmes Shared Space Survey last July found that 60% of respondents did not like these streets, and over 30% said they avoided using them whenever possible, but they are still proliferating even though the Public Sector Equality Duty requires all public areas to be accessible to everyone, including disabled people.
NFBUK and other national organisations are now pressing for an independent inquiry into shared space design principles in order to regain the rights of residents to walk their town streets once again without needing to negotiate right-of-way with drivers of moving vehicles by sight, a task which is impossible for blind and vision–impaired people to carry out.
Could you perhaps pass this message on to your Cabinet Minister who is concerned with street access and road safety, to whom we will send evidence and comprehensive details of this serious problem which can often be alleviated by councils who spend less money on such unnecessary work.
Thanking you in anticipation,