Fresh appeal after 18-month monitoring period of Kirkintilloch’s controversial shared space

Photo Emma mitchell 4.4.17'Shares space
Photo Emma mitchell 4.4.17'Shares space

A lengthy delay on a 
decision by East Dunbartonshire Council on whether to return the traffic lights at a busy town centre junction is almost over.

Council boss Thomas Glen has told the Herald a report on a year-and-a-half monitoring of Kirkintilloch’s controversial shared space will be presented to elected members “at a future date”.

Campaigners branded the decision by the council in April last year in relation to the Catherine Street junction a “democratic disgrace”. A public consultation in February 2018 revealed an overwhelming 85 per cent of people were in favour of controlled crossings being reinstated there.

But at the meeting of the council two months later, Kirkintilloch councillor Susan Murray (LibDem) moved to continue monitoring the junction for a further 18 months – which means it should now be completed (October 2019).

She was backed by fellow LibDem and Tory coalition councillors, along with Labour councillor Alan Moir and Independent councillor Duncan Cumming.

An amendment from SNP group leader Gordan Low, calling for work to start on reinstating the crossings as soon as possible as a result of the public consultation, was defeated by 14-7 votes.

Last week the council’s Depute Chief Executive Thomas Glen told the Herald: “In line with the decision of Council on 26 April 2018, we continue to monitor Kirkintilloch town centre – including input from UK walking charity Living Streets – and a report will be presented to elected members at a future date.”

Meanwhile, Guide Dogs Scotland has put out a fresh appeal for action on the most common dangers for people with sight loss, including a new law limiting pavement parking to areas determined by the local council, action from local authorities on street clutter and a safety review of existing shared space schemes.

Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona Mackay spoke with the charity at the recent SNP conference about the challenges blind and partially sighted people face when walking the streets.

The charity said pavements blocked by parked cars or street clutter such as wheelie bins and overhanging branches can force pedestrians to walk into the road, putting them in danger of oncoming traffic.

They reiterated that shared spaces, where safety features such as kerbs and controlled crossings are removed, can also be dangerous and disorientating for people with sight loss.

To illustrate these risks, Guide Dogs asked the MSP to take a trip down memory lane and play their ‘Navigation Game’ – a take on the classic final challenge of the Generation Game – memorising the hazards a guide dog owner might encounter on a typical journey.

Ms Mackay said: “I want streets that work for blind and partially sighted people.

“The Scottish Parliament recently announced pavement parking will be an offence from 2021, making ours the first country to take such a bold step forward. There’s still lots of work to be done though, and Guide Dogs Scotland is doing amazing work creating awareness and pushing for action on the hazards people with sight loss face.”

Niall Foley of Guide Dogs Scotland, said: “The street environment has a huge impact on people with sight loss.

“When a street is blocked with obstacles or lacks vital safety features, it can make the difference between getting out and about with confidence or feeling forced to stay at home.

“We’re calling for action to tackle the most common hazards that affect blind and partially sighted people on their local streets – pavement parking, street clutter and shared spaces.”