Shared space: Roads boss voices safety fears

Campaigners against a controversial shared space plan for a town centre have welcomed support from a top road engineering expert.

Richard Hayes, chief executive of the Institute of Highway Engineers, said he was worried about safety and mobility problems for disabled people from the “free for all” schemes which mix traffic and pedestrians.

His comments come as East Dunbartonshire Council prepares to start work on the shared space project which takes in the busy Catherine Street junction in Kirkintilloch. Responding to the results of a report “Accident by Design” by former paralympian Lord Holmes, who criticised such schemes, Mr Hayes added: “We need to ensure careful consideration is given to the impact new schemes will have on all disabled groups.

“Lord Holmes’ report also recommends the Department for Transport updates their guidance so that local authorities better understand their responsibilities under the Equalities Act.

“The highways industry needs to take this report on board and work towards creating shared spaces that are accessible to all.”

Sandy Taylor of East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired People’s Forum, who has been heading the local campaign against the shared space said: “The recent report from the Institute of Highway Engineers has highlighted many of the concerns of our members, in particular the proposed ‘courtesy crossings’ which are to replace the current controlled pelican crossings.

“Please look at this this from a disabled person’s perspective. This is your dilemma. You are standing at an uncontrolled courtesy crossing.

“You cannot see electric vehicles or cyclists approaching and you may also have a hearing impediment. You have to decide when to put your foot on the roadway. It is literally a step into the unknown - vehicles have no legal compulsion to stop at an uncontrolled crossing.

“It is inhumane to subject anyone to this ordeal.

“These uncontrolled crossings effectively banish those with sight loss and other disabled and vulnerable people from their town centre,

“This is discrimination and is in breach of the Equality Act and the council’s public sector equality duty.

“The council stated its aim is to make the town centre more attractive to lead to its regeneration.

“This is an admirable objective which we support, but it must not exclude anyone and controlled crossings must be retained.”