Department for Transport needs to urgently address dangers of shared surfaces
Guide Dog's responds to Lord McAvoy'soral question in the House of Lords for the Governments assessment of the impact of shared space crossings on the safety of blind and partially sighted people and other people with a disability.
Shared surfaces are a development in road design where the road and pavement are built at the same level so that pedestrians and vehicles share the same surface and rely on eye contact to negotiate priority – an obvious difficulty for people with sight loss. Described in a follow-up question by Lord Holmes as “these architectural conceits and planning follies—these health and safety disasters,” shared surfaces also remove the kerb, another vital clue telling vision impaired road users where they are in the road.
Shared surface streets are dangerous for people with sight loss who rely upon the presence of the kerb to know they are on the pavement and not in the road. Guide Dogs has worked closely with the Transport Minister Baroness Kramer in the past, and in her response to the question we were glad to hear her describe road users’ safety as of “paramount importance” – and ask after the progress of guide dog puppy Kramer that was named after her last year!
However, it is not only visually impaired people whose journey is affected by shared space crossings, but any road user with a disability or mobility impairment. During the debate Lord Davies of Oldham brought up how the potential dangers of fast-moving traffic had been brought home to him when walking with his grandchildren on one major shared-surface scheme, Exhibition Road.
Incidences of shared surface schemes appear to be on the rise - in 2014 alone Guide Dogs was made aware of 18 councils who were commissioning new schemes. With this in mind, the Department for Transport urgently needs to do more to address the dangers of shared surfaces in the guidance that they issue to local authorities, and local authorities need to stop commissioning shared surfaces.