Comment: Two eyes in inclusion?

 

Why have I launched a survey to find out about people's experiences of shared space?

Shared space breaks down demarcations between motor vehicles, pedestrians, and other road users. It is a design philosophy rather than a set of rules. Shared space schemes can encompass anything from removing street markings and physical barriers such as railings to the removal of pedestrian crossings.

A step further, shared surfaces, remove all delineations between roads and pavements, so that there is no kerb or any other major distinction. Toddlers and tankers, buses and blind people all end up ‘sharing’ the same level space.

I’m all for innovation and improvement but a scheme which relies exclusively on eye contact means that I can’t use it, and neither can millions of others. Taking away kerbs, pavements and pedestrian crossings means taking away the means by which many people can independently navigate a public space and makes many more vulnerable and afraid.

This survey intends to provide us with clearer figures on people's experience of shared space including how many people go out of their way to avoid them.

The exclusion of blind and visually impaired people from public spaces also clearly violates certain obligations enshrined in the Equality Act but there is a lack of leadership from central government and a lack of awareness in local government.

Although the Department for Transport has issued guidance on shared space they maintain a position of ‘neutrality’. Local authorities are responsible for the schemes and they seem enthusiastic; shared space schemes are increasingly being developed and implemented across the country.

Where many authorities are rushing ahead with plans some areas are making expensive U-turns, Blackpool and Warwick have undone work and schemes in Grimsby and Gloucester are being reconsidered. Sadly a gentlemen was killed on a shared space crossing in Leek just last week.

We need to take these lessons and produce far more and better quality evidence. I hope that the results of this survey will be part of that and will help inform the discussion and raise awareness of these terrible and expensive follies.

To take part in the survey click here

Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE is a Conservative peer and Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer with a tally of 9 golds, 5 silvers and 1 bronze.

 
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