Charity film highlights dangers of shared space schemes and call for streets to be safe to cross

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has released a short film to highlight the problems of inaccessible streets.

Fronted by blind and partially sighted campaigners, the #HowISee film takes place in problem areas in Leicester, Kingston and Edinburgh.

Kingston-based Elise Crayton has Stargardt’s Disease which means she has lost her central vision. Changes to the area Elise lives in include a switch away from signal-controlled pedestrian crossings and the merging of footpaths and cycle paths into one level surface.

Elise said: “The built environment has changed so much. My route to work here is really dangerous. They’ve removed previous signal crossings. The new crossings are really scary for me to walk across and it is impacting on me quite a lot. I am having to plan much more carefully when I do and don’t do things.”

Pardy Gill from Leicester was born with a condition called retinopathy prematurity and has one functioning eye with severe sight loss, and one prosthetic eye. The kerbs in the area he lives in have been flattened out or made lower and this is something that Pardy feels strongly about.

He said: “Removing kerbs in the shared space here in Leicester is dangerous as many people with sight loss rely on kerbs to make sure that we are away from cars and cyclists. It makes me frustrated because all we want is inclusive street design that benefits everyone.”

Similarly, blind Edinburgh man, Alan Dudley is in the video highlighting the problems he faces in the Leith Walk area of the city.“Leith Walk always has been a difficult place because of the amount of traffic and pedestrians that are there,” said Mr Dudley. “I think over the last five, ten years or so, traffic has become much heavier, and I think it’s a little more scary these days with street furniture and crowds of people. So, one has to be very, very careful when you’re walking about and try to be aware of what’s happening around you.”

RNIB has campaigned on the issue of accessible streets for a number of years, raising awareness of the problems that shared space schemes can bring.

Hugh Huddy, RNIB Policy and Campaigns Manager, said: “We strongly believe that streets should be accessible for everyone. Blind and partially sighted people must feel safe to cross but how can sharing a space with vehicles and cyclists be safe if you can’t see what’s coming?

“Currently shared spaces often fail people with sight loss, so we welcome the recent decision by the Government to pause Shared Space schemes, but we have to ask – what happens next?

“Will they bring back the kerbs and controlled crossings that were removed? Will money be made available to councils to make their existing schemes inclusive again?

“RNIB is calling for all shared spaces to contain inclusive signal controlled crossings, kerbs, and tactile pavement markings.”

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