Traffic trial “terrifying” for blind

Council officers had a taste of the dangers faced by visually impaired pedestrians at a 
controversial trial town 
centre traffic system.

Members of the council’s Strategic Development and 
Regeneration team tackled the new layout – blindfold, helped by a guide dog or a walking aid.

Catherine Street junction

Catherine Street junction

Guide Dogs Scotland, in conjunction with East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired Forum, set up Friday’s challenge in protest at the traffic light turn-off scheme at Catherine Street in Kirkintilloch town centre.

The forum met recently with councillors and officials to express their concerns about the traffic lights bein deactivated.

One Kirkintilloch member who has severe sight problems told the Herald she was “terrified” of walking across the road.

Earlier this month, carriageways were narrowed, traffic lights deactivated, railings removed and green pedestrian crossing points painted on the road surface.

No stream of traffic is given formal priority over the other, while pedestrians are given right of way.

The Herald has been inundated with complaints from both drivers and pedestrians who said the scheme as “badly thought out” and “downright dangerous.”

One of the council officers who took part in Friday’s challenge said: “We were invited here by the visually impaired forum who felt it might be helpful for representatives from the council to feel what it is like to have sight problems.”

Margaret Hutchison of the forum, who has only a tiny bit of sight, told the Herald: “My guide dog is trained not to walk out when there is any vehicle approaching from either side because it is unsafe.

“Having green across the road to indicate a pedestrian crossing means nothing to me or my guide dog because all dogs are colour blind.

“We are being asked to walk out in the dark with cars all around. I used to be really independent - now I am terrified of walking across the road.”

She also hit out at the lack of consultation from the council, which, she said, had only served to confuse people.

Julie Millar, engagement officer for Guide dogs Scotland described Friday’s challenge as “very positive.”

She added: “We hope it clarifies to the council the concerns expressed by the visually impaired forum.”