A councillor has branded a controversial plan for a busy road junction as ‘madness’ after a disabled pensioner died in a similar scheme in England.
Jack Young, the independent councillor for Kirkintilloch East, told the Herald he will be voting against the shared space plan for Catherine Street when the full council meets to make its decision next week.
He said: “I want nothing to do with this madness and will be voting accordingly on April 30.
“Removing the traffic lights and safety barriers here will put the most vulnerable in our society at risk.”
Councillor Young hit out after learning a 71-year-old man died when he was hit by a bus two years ago in a similar shared space in England. The Coventry man, who was partially sighted, died in hospital after suffering multiple injuries in the accident.
Councillor Young added: “There have been numerous other serious injuries to pedestrians in other parts of England.
“I find it absolutely astonishing that anyone could support the removal of the traffic lights and recognised crossings at Catherine Street.
“The elderly, partially sighted people, mothers with prams and children will all be expected to step out in what is a leap of faith and at serious risk because of this crazy ideology of shared spaces.”
He is being backed by the SNP councillor for Kirkintilloch East, John Jamieson, who told the Herald he too would be voting against the plan.
He said: “I know it’s an attempt to think of ways to improve the town centre, but this just isn’t the right way to do it.”
The plans to remove traffic lights, barriers and kerbs at the busy crossing – with pedestrians and motorists expected to make eye contact instead – has raised widespread safety concerns.
Many also say it is being railroaded through.
Blind and partially sighted campaigners from East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired Group have collected hundreds of signatures for a petition against the changes.
They are also calling on people to join them at a protest outside council HQ at 5pm on Thursday, April 30, when councillors will be arriving for the meeting,
Local firms have also reacted angrily to the shared space plan, with one claiming she lost £1,000 during a four-week trial of the scheme at the junction last summer.
East Dunbartonshire Council leader Rhondda Geekie insisted this week the shared space plan for Catherine Street was safe.
She said last year’s traffic trial had “functioned successfully” and given the council confidence to further develop the project.
She told the Herald: “It is important to remember that the Catherine Street junction is a small part of a wider project.
“The council would never seek to implement anythingthat is not safe.
“Last summer the council ran a trial of a potential layout at the Catherine Street junction.
“The council commissioned JMP Consultants prior to the trial to carry out an independent safety study, which concluded that the trial was safe.
“A further road safety audit was then commissioned and conducted by Atkins.
“The report deemed the trial to be safe, but made some recommendations for the introduction of physical traffic-calming measures.
“These were implemented and improved the experience of the junction.
“That the junction trial came through two independent safety studies and functioned successfully throughout the trial period gave the council confidence to further develop the project.
“It is fair to say there is perhaps a perception that the junction was unsafe, but the reality demonstrated the opposite.
“Should the preferred option be approved the project team will work with the community to help raise awareness of the project.
“It should be remembered that the design conformed both to the Green Cross Code and the Highway Code.
“The proposal also conforms to Scottish Government design policy statements Designing Streets and SCOTS National Roads Development Guide.
“As regards ‘shared space’ schemes where unfortunately accidents have occurred, it is unfair to make like-for-like comparisons with the Kirkintilloch design proposal.
“That said, the project team has listened to concerns voiced and learned from other schemes to address these concerns within the development of the preferred option.
“It should be borne in mind that similar schemes have been introduced in Kent, Grimsby, Hull, Manchester, London and Liverpool.
“Lancashire County Council embarked on a similar project in summer 2013.
“The £3.4million scheme has helped to regenerate Preston city centre – providing a safe, contemporary public space for all who visit.
“Kent County Council introduced a ‘shared space’ scheme in November 2008 and it has been hailed as a success in terms of safety and access.
“A report on the Ashford Ring Road scheme found that personal injury crashes halved - seven in 2008-2011 compared to 14 in 2004-06.
“Accidents involving pedestrians went down from six to one over the same time period.”