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The Government under pressure on shared space

Added: 20 July 2018 | Updated: 30 July 2018

The Government is increasingly under pressure on shared space as its Minister for Disabled people, its own accessible transport advisory body, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), and the Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) are calling for “urgent action”.

In April, Transport for All (TfA) members joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFBUK) outside Parliament, for a day of action against shared space design. During the day TfA, together with other organisations, went to 10 Downing Street to hand in NFBUK’s petition, which was co-signed by 50 organisations. This petition asked the Government to take urgent action to implement the WEC report published a year earlier. This Report, called ‘Building for Equality – Disability and the Built Environment’, condemns the use of shared space roads. It calls for the schemes to be halted, all existing schemes to be reviewed and modified, and for the underlying guidance for shared space to be withdrawn and replaced with inclusive design guidance.

The Minister for Disabled people calls for urgent action

During that day of Action, we had a meeting with the Minister for Disabled people, Sarah Newton. After hearing first-hand the impact the scheme has had on Disabled people, the minister promised to write to the Department for Transport (DfT) and to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on this issue.

We were very pleased to see that she kept her promise. On the 15th May 2018, she wrote to both the minister for transport accessibility, Nusrat Ghani, and the housing, communities and local government secretary, James Brokenshire, calling on her own government to take “urgent action” to address concerns about the dangers of shared space.

She also asked the DfT to produce new guidance for local authorities that would warn them they risk breaching the Equality Act if they “deliberately install an area that prejudices Disability inclusion”.

Critics from the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC)

A month later (in June), we welcomed a position paper published by the DPTAC, which criticises the government’s current position on shared space.

In this paper, DPTAC says that the current guidance on shared space needs to be revised. It also supports the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee, which we defended during the day of action in April.

In this document, the DPTAC publish a list of recommendations, in which it calls on the government to take a leading role in the shared space agenda, including commissioning further research. They add that “the implementation of shared space schemes should be paused, until an independent evaluation has taken place”.

The DPTAC also ask that “Disabled people are fully involved in the conception, planning, design, implementation and evaluation of shared space”, if these schemes are to continue in the future.

It also says that “the government should ensure that advice is available on how to challenge local authorities on existing or new shared space schemes”.

Finally, it calls for a “public education campaign to promote safer and appropriate use of current shared space by all (pedestrians, wheelchair users and motorists included)”.

In an article published on Disability News Services, the Department for Work and Pensions and DfT said in a joint statement that they “take the issue of accessibility very seriously”. The two ministers will be meeting to discuss the concerns, while the DfT will publish its response to a consultation on its Accessibility Action Plan, and its Inclusive Transport Strategy, later this year.

The Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) expresses its disappointment

Finally, 2 weeks ago (June 2018), the WEC wrote to the Government to express its deep disappointment that the government’s response to their report ‘Building for Equality – Disability and the Urban Environment’ does not meet their recommendations.

“I am particularly disappointed that the Government has not taken the opportunity of the draft National Planning Policy Framework to meet our recommendation that the National Planning Policy Framework incorporate a dedicated section on access for Disabled people and inclusive design.“ says Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee to James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government (copied to Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport).

She adds that the “rejection of [their] recommendations on shared spaces is particularly unfortunate given the high levels of concern that continue to be expressed about this type of highway design.”

The WEC ask the Government to give oral evidence to the Committee and provide a fuller response to their recommendations by the 3rd September.

Shared spaces creates ‘no-go’ zones for Disabled and older people

Removing the safety features of kerbs and controlled pedestrian crossings from our streets creates no-go zones for many Disabled and older people.

In her letter to the DfT, the minister of Disabled people itself explains that ”Shared space particularly impacts on Visually Impaired people who are unable to navigate the streets where there are no barriers between pavements and roads. Additionally guide dogs are unable to distinguish the edge of the pavement where kerbs have been removed, and there have been instances of them leading their owners into traffic”.

The DPTAC also mention that “the expectation appears to be that drivers will establish eye contact with pedestrians. Clearly, this is a non-starter with Blind people”.

The WEC also recognise that these schemes have a negative impact on all Disabled people.

Take Action

At Transport for All, we have heard from countless Disabled and older people who are afraid to walk through shared spaces.

For all this reason Transport for All is calling on the Government to take action to prevent these schemes from turning our high streets and public spaces into ‘no-go’ zones for Disabled and older people. It needs to immediately implement the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee Report ‘Building for Equality: Disability and the Built Environment’ on shared space published on the 19th April 2017.

Take action now by:

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