Shared space schemes must be halted, mayor’s commissioner told

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A disabled campaigner has told London’s walking and cycling commissioner that all shared space street developments should be halted because they are too dangerous for disabled and older people.

Dr Tom Pey (pictured, second from left), chief executive of the Royal Society for Blind Children and a leading opponent of shared space developments, said such schemes were based on “flawed” principles and caused a minority of drivers to become “more angry and reckless”.

He said: “Why would we want… reckless drivers driving around in places where there are no footpaths?”

Shared space schemes often remove kerbs and controlled crossings from a street, encouraging vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists to share the same space, posing greater risks for partially-sighted and blind people, as well as other disabled people, including many of those who are neuro-diverse, or have mobility impairments, learning difficulties or are deaf.

Pey was speaking at the Access All Areas event on accessible transport, organised by Transport for London (TfL), and was sharing a stage with the mayor of London’s walking and cycling commissioner, Dr Will Norman.

Norman (pictured, third from left) stressed that the priorities of the mayor’s transport strategy for the capital’s roads were the needs and safety of pedestrians, cyclists, users of mobility aids and public transport, and a key target was to reduce unnecessary car journeys.

But he repeatedly declined to comment on the mayor’s policy on shared spaces.

Pey said Norman should not try to “conflate” the issue of encouraging pedestrians and cyclists with shared spaces.

He said it was a “research fact” that shared spaces created a less safe environment.

He said: “Shared space started in Holland, in continental Europe, where they are [now]being abandoned because they do not work for disabled people.

“Research shows that where there is a shared space, disabled people just don’t go there anymore because it isn’t safe.”

Norman said cities like London “always need new solutions” and new types of infrastructure.

He said: “Do we always get them right all the time? No. Will we sit down and work with people? Yes, and we’ve got a track record of doing that.”

But Norman then gave an example of how TfL had installed zebra crossings across bus stop bypass schemes – where the bus stop is placed on an island, with pedestrians forced to cross a cycle lane to reach it – a solution heavily criticised last month by National Federation of the Blind of the UK.

In January, NFB UK filmed a succession of cyclists riding through a zebra crossing introduced as part of a bus stop bypass scheme in Manchester, even though a blind man with a white cane was waiting with his cane on the crossing.

Pey told Norman: “I don’t want to sound hyper-critical of TfL but I think what would be really helpful would be if we took this shared space, a bit like a No Deal Brexit, if we took it off the table and then everybody can sit down and sign up… to a city that is safer.

“It’s not just disabled people who find it difficult to navigate in London, it’s older people, it’s visitors, it’s lots of people, and we have got to find an integrated solution for this.

“We all have to learn how to do things differently, including the regulators of this city.”

TfL had not responded by noon today (Thursday) to a request from Disability News Service for clarification on its policy on shared space developments.

But it says 95 per cent of its bus stops are now accessible, while there are more than 200 step-free stations across its network, including 78 London Underground (LU) stations, 58 overground stations, six TfL-run rail stations and all Docklands Light Railway stations and tram stops.

Eight more underground stations are set to be step-free by March 2020, with work underway at a further seven.

The Access All Areas event also included workshops and an exhibition of accessibility innovations, including an electric bus and taxi, a driverless car, and a new Station Real Time Information App.

The app allows LU station staff to report station incidents that may affect passenger journeys, such as a lift going out of service, and also allows LU staff to record disabled passengers who wish to use TfL’s Turn Up and Go service, which provides assistance to disabled passengers who have not booked help in advance.

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