On the anniversary of a report condemning the use of shared space, Transport for All joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFBUK) for a day of action outside the Parliament.
Around forty Disabled and older people, as well as representatives from organisations in the Disability sector from all around the UK, gathered on the 24th April to protest against shared space and attempt to force the Government to implement the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee report on Shared Space without delay. This Report called ‘Building for Equality – Disability and the Urban 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to be halted, all existing schemes to be reviewed and modified, and for the underlying Guidance for shared space to be withdrawn and replaced with inclusive design guidance.
But a year later, the recommendations have still not been implemented. This is why TfA along with Inclusion London and 48 other organisations, signed NFBUK’s letter to the government.
Shared spaces are dangerous
Shared space schemes are a design concept which removes the barriers between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, encouraging everybody to share the same road space. These schemes have been introduced across the country, including on Exhibition Road here in London, despite calls from disability rights campaigners, the House of Lords and community organisations not to do so.
Removing the safety features of kerbs and controlled pedestrian crossings from our streets creates no-go zones for many Disabled and older people. It takes away the guide that many people with visual impairments use to navigate and cross the roads, robbing them of their ability to travel independently. In a report from the BBC, a guide dog user explained: “My GuideDog is trained to go towards the kerb. Without it, she is going straight into the road!”
At Transport for All, we’ve heard from countless Disabled and older people who are afraid to walk through shared spaces. Our trustee Patrick Robert, who is a guide dog user, recently revealed that he was knocked down twice by cyclists, using shared spaces.
Transport for All’s trustee, Mohammed Mohsanali said: “As a visually impaired myself, the shared spaces are extremely dangerous and a death trap. I cannot express how dangerous these schemes are, because there are no kerbs, tactile marking s or traffic lights to keep me safe from the moving traffic. My experience hasn’t been a good one because I was going to get hit by a car and so they make me feel so angry; to think all the people responsible for shared spaces expect us to use them when we cannot see or make eye contact with the drivers”
The Government must 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.
Petition to 10 Downing Street
After a protest outside Parliament, and while the statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett was being unveiled, we all marched down to no. 10 Downing Street. We were joined by Jess Phillips MP, a member of the select committee; Clive Efford, MP for Eltham; Stuart McDonald, MP for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East; and Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough.
TfA Trustee Gwynneth Pedler, who is a wheelchair user, went to 10 Downing Street along with organisations such as Blind Veterans UK to hand in NFBUK’s petition which was co-signed by 50 organisations.
Gwynneth said: “As a wheelchair user I often find bicycles rushing past me on both sides; I can’t hear them coming so it comes as a surprise and it is sometimes confusing. The truth is that many Councils that adopted this method are now having either to reinstate or adapt these schemes.
“We must all unite to bring our concerns to our Councillors and MPs, pointing out that this is a backward step which is causing many Disabled and older people to feel uncomfortable and unsafe , so that they are no longer accessing the environment which is every citizen’ s right. The House of Lords and the Select Committee for Women and Equality have both urged the Government to call a halt until more research has been carried out.
“Pavements were meant for People in the first place. Let us get back to basics and keep them that way.”
Meeting with the Minister for Disabled People
After the protest, we met the Minister for Disabled People, Sarah Newton to share with her our concerns. Sarah Gayton, Shared Space Coordinator for NFBUK, outlined the problems that shared space layouts present for all people but in particular those who are Visually Impaired. A member from NFBUK revealed that it had contributed to her abandoning her degree when the introduction of a shared space scheme made it impossible for her to access the university.
TfA member, Linda Miller from partner-organisation Enfield Town Residents Association, has been campaigning for years against these schemes. She described the way in which Enfield had dismissed Lord Holmes’ research on the problems that shared space layouts create for Visually Impaired people as ‘anecdotal’ in their equality impact audit for the scheme. She spoke of how residents had raised concerns about the dangers such an arrangement would create but their concerns had been ignored and the scheme had gone ahead regardless.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Minister summed up and said she would be writing to the Department for Transport and to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on this issue. The Rt Hon Sarah Newton MP was informed that two previous Ministers for Disabled People had been made aware of the problem of shared space, but unfortunately no action had resulted from this. The Minster replied that she would act and this would be third time lucky.
Finally, we met with Shadow Minister for Disabled People, Marsha De Cordova, who was supportive. Marsha offered to find out Labour’s position on shared space schemes and help petition the party to develop a firm stance regarding them.
Sarah Gayton stated: “Shared space roads are still being designed and implemented across the UK. The relentless attack of taking away and reducing the safety features that protect Disabled and older people from traffic has to stop and I hope this petition has told; the Government in no uncertain terms that we want the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee to be implemented without further delay.”
The letter to the Prime Minister:
24th April 2018
Dear Prime Minister,
This is an appeal for the Government to enforce the Equality Legislation and the recommendations on shared space roads, made in the Women and Equalities Select Committee Report ‘Building for Equality: Disability and the Built Environment’ published a year ago on the 25th April 2017. Implementing these recommendations would allow blind and disabled people to continue to access the streets of their towns and getting out of their homes as they have done for the past 40 years. It would prevent many local authorities who are unnecessarily spending millions of pounds to remove or lower kerbs and take out push-button pedestrian crossings from their town streets in an attempt to produce more visually attractive public realm schemes.
Kerbs and controlled push-button crossings are critical safety features which many disabled people depend on for independently accessing urban areas, crossing the streets and getting out of their homes. Blind and partially sighted people use the kerb to help with navigation and to stop them stepping out into moving traffic on the road. The drop in height from a standard kerb is an unmistakable indication of the edge of the carriageway.
Neuro diverse people understand that pavements are the safe area which will keep them away from traffic. Young children are also taught to stop at the kerb and look both ways for moving vehicles to guard against collisions with vehicles. Push-button controlled crossings are the only safe place where everyone can cross the road because they stop the traffic and have accessible features to tell blind, partially sighted and disabled people when it is safe to cross.
The removal or reduction of kerbs and taking away controlled pedestrian crossings has created dangerous situations and accidents, which have led to young children and disabled people being killed and injured in such places. These schemes have created confusing and chaotic road situations, which have led to many blind, partially sighted, disabled and elderly people having to avoid these streets completely. Many crossings have or are now being reinstated in earlier schemes but there are still major access problems where courtesy crossings have been used, which cannot be used by blind and other disabled people, and where kerbs have been removed or significantly reduced in height. The attached documents also provide further background to this issue.
We ask you to recognise and take action against this discriminatory approach to urban design. Serious concerns about its growth and impact on disabled people across the UK have been expressed in two debates and one inquiry in the House of Lords (by Lord Low in 2010, Lord Holmes in 2015 and House of Lords Equality Act 2010 and Disability Committee 2016), the Transport Select Committee (2015) and by the former Minister of Transport (Baroness Kramer in 2013 and 2015). The Guide Dog Association for the Blind, the RNIB and the National Federation of the Blind of the UK and other organisations have raised serious concerns about the serious dangers these schemes create blind, partially sighted and disabled people, and have asked for such designs to be halted and for street designs to conform to all Disability and Equality Legislation. Sandy Taylor, (the NFBUK Shared Space Spokesperson in Scotland) petitioned the Scottish Parliament to stop shared space and has secured agreement that the underlying guidance will be changed. However, this process is not moving fast and multi-million pound inaccessible and exclusionary shared space schemes are still being planned and implemented.
The Women and Equalities Select Committee investigated the problems of shared space road design and published its findings on 25th April 2017 in its report ‘Building for Equality – Disability and the Urban Environment’ The Committee was overwhelmed with evidence on the widespread problems that shared space was causing for disabled people. The report condemned shared space road design and in Paragraphs 172 and 173 (see Appendix A) called for the Government to take leadership on this issue. It called for a number of urgent actions to be undertaken, including for the introduction of new shared space schemes to be halted, pending the development of national guidance, clearly based on the principle of ‘inclusive’ design’; and for the review and modification of existing schemes.
However, the Governments response issued on 15th March 2018 clearly fails to address the key recommendations made in the report. The response makes reference to the recently produced Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) recommendations which confirmed that shared space roads are not inclusively designed, however, the CIHT report does not address the key recommendations made in the Women and Equalities Select Committee Report, contrary to what is said in the response of the Government.
Also the proposed reclassification of road types by CIHT does not address the underlying accessibility requirements for people who are blind and partially sighted and disabled, and it is clear that the road industry wish to continue with shared space principles but under a different name.
Last August, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities expressed concern about the safeguarding of disability rights in the UK and urged the Government to listen more carefully to the concerns of disabled people. The Governments response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee Report clearly indicates lessons have not been learnt and the concerns raised by many disabled people from across the UK have simply been ignored.
We along with the other charities mentioned below, urgently request that the Government implements the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee report with out delay. One hundred years after women were given the vote, it would be fitting for the Government to listen to the voices of marginalised and excluded citizens, whose lives continue to be devalued and put at risk.
Sincerely and hopefully yours,
Andrew Hodgson President
National Federation of the Blind of the UK
National Federation of the Blind of the UK
Transport for All
Blind Veterans UK
Disability Rights UK
Action on Disability, London
Enfield Town Residents Association
Merton Centre for Independent Living
Kent Association for the Blind
East Dunbartonshire Visually Impaired
Fyde and Wyre Society for the Blind
4 Sight Vision Support, West Sussex
Lincoln ad Lindsey Blind Society, Ramsgate
York Blind and Partially Sighted Group
Sight Support Derbyshire
East Sussex Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People
Leicester Disabled Peoples Access Group, LDP
Newcastle Vision Support
Oxford Association for the Blind
Support 4 Sight Essex
Berkshire Vision, Berkshire
Galloway’s Society for the Blind, Preston
Forest Sensory Services, Forrest of Dean
Sight Cmyru, Wales
Wales Council of the Blind
Peterborough Association for the Blind
North Wales Society for the Blind
Hackbridge Safety First
Maccsfield Eye Centre
HERIB Hull and East Riding Institute for the Blind
South East London Vision SELVIS
Northamptonshire Association for the Blind
Merton Vision London
Vision North Somerset
Wish Charity, London
My Sight Nottingham
Visually Impaired Merthyr Tydfill
Eastbourne Access Group
Yorkshire Coast Sight Support
Evenbreak, Jobs for Disabled People
I Sight Cornwall
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