This is the petition supported by the Eastbourne Access Group that was delivered to Downing Street on Monday.
Boris Please Get Shared Space Gone’ and ‘Get Accessibility For All Done’
That’s the plea from blind and visually impaired campaigners who are handing into Number 10, the first three petitions of the new year and of the new decade to Boris Johnson and the New Government.
The message is very clear from Andrew Hodgson, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of the UK (NFBUK) who has spent the past decade raising concerns on shared space schemes which have affected many blind, partially sighted, disabled and vulnerable pedestrians across the UK and more recently on the problems of new cycle schemes which simply do not address the accessibility needs of blind and partially sighted people: ‘We do not want to share space with moving vehicles on the road and with cyclists on pavement or when trying to get on and off the bus’. ‘We simply want our pavements back, our green man pedestrian crossings back and we want direct access to public transport back please’. ‘We want to be able to walk in safety and we want to reclaim our pavements’. ‘This should be a given and it still amazes me we have to campaign so hard to keep our pavements safe and to ensure we can simply get on a bus in safety’.
Boris Johnson’s commitment to safer streets and better infrastructure is welcomed by members of the NFBUK who are at the heart of the today’s petition. They are petitioning Boris to ensure these commitments are underpinned with inclusive design.
The NFBUK want to highlight to that many shared space schemes in the last decade failed to ensure accessible features were included to ensure blind and partially sighted people could use them safely or independently. The failings of shared space have been acknowledged by the Department for Transport who requested a pause on level surfaces in July 2018 in England only and withdrew the underpinning guidance for shared space. The NFBUK want this halt to cover the whole of the UK and for existing schemes to undergo urgent remediation to ensure safe access for all pedestrians to these areas is quickly restored.
The NFBUK will be re-submitting their updated Global Pledge and Petition which was handed into the Gates of Number 10 back in July 2019, when Boris Johnson was at the Palace meeting the Queen to take over as Prime Minister.
The Global Pledge and Petition for Safe and Accessible Urban Environments, simply states the: ‘NFBUK want a world where blind, deaf-blind, visually impaired, disabled, young and older people, and people with mobility and cognitive impairments do not have to share space with moving vehicles on the road please.’ The Global pledge and petition was supported by 200 UK organisations and just over 430 organisations from across the world and is a clear mandate for change to ensure shared space road design is ended once and for all and inclusive designs to ensure access for all are used in our built environment.
Chair of Enfield Town Residents Association said:“We too are petitioning the Prime Minister today and present evidence of the dangers many new road layouts present for blind, disabled and vulnerable people – people who should by rights be protected by the Equality Act. None of these could have occurred if planners and funders had been properly held to account by the Equality Act.
The Prime Minister has said that his new national disability strategy will be “ambitious” and will support disabled people “in all aspects of their life” including transport. If Mr Johnson is serious about this – and we hope he is – then our petition gives him a very easy ‘starter for ten’: we call on him to give the Equality Act the teeth it needs to ensure that in future local authorities and transport bodies will no longer be able to ignore the impact of their plans on disabled and vulnerable people.”
Ray Blakeborough from Eastbounre Access Group stated:‘The purpose of our petition is to highlight the growing and worrying trend of East Sussex County Council and Eastbourne Borough Council of designing disabled people out of our public spaces. We are incredibly alarmed at the loss of safe spaces, lack of suitable public transport, and WAVs in our taxi fleet, all if which is creating greater isolation amongst our disabled community to the detriment of their physical and mental wellbeing.
We have a shared space scheme which due to prior knowledge of the UK builds and experience could have been built to much safer standards. Instead we now have a harsh urban landscape which is an attractant for anti social behaviour. Multiple trip hazards now exist in the centre of town including the use of lowered height kerbs. There is wholesale misuse of corduroy paving to seperate a live traffic lane from pedestrian space. This is compounded by a one sided consultation with cyclists which has enabled people to ride their bikes and e scooters through the town centre, on pavements and seafront promenade at will.
Eastbourne Access Group and Eastbourne Disability Involvement Group have campaigned and consulted on these issues since 2013 to no avail. Given that disabled residents account for 20% of the local population (reaching 25%in the next decade) we would expect a greater say in the design and ultimate health and safety of our demographic. Surely the Equality Act needs to have as much force in protecting disabled people as it does in areas such as sexual or racial discrimination.
With Mr Johnson openly stating his desire to see safe inclusive designs in our towns and cities we expect his Government to instruct local councils to put disabled people at the heart of the planning process. This we believe will deliver schemes that “enable” rather than “disable”’.