Steve Hyde, our Regional Campaigns Officer for the South West of England, spoke to BBC Radio Solent about shared space in the town, and took their reporter on a guided walk whilst wearing simulation spectacles. It gave the reporter first hand experience of how difficult it can be for blind and partially sighted pedestrians to walk through shared space areas. The reporter even had a close shave whilst trying to cross the road!
In common with many shared space areas, Queen Mother Square has no detectable kerbs or accessible pedestrian crossings. This means that blind and partially sighted pedestrians are left with no way of knowing where the pavement ends and where the road begins, and when to cross the road safely.
When attempting to cross Queen Mother Square, the BBC reporter found that a car drove “straight through” rather than give way to him as a pedestrian. The road had seemed clear at the time, and he had already begun to cross, holding a white cane out in front of him.
The BBC reporter spoke to a local woman who said:
“I’m always very anxious when I’m here… because my husband is blind, I have to keep him near me when we cross the road here. It is difficult.”
Speaking of how the area could be different, Steve Hyde said:
“Give us controlled crossings. So that we can actually get across the road… and we don’t have to ask for assistance. Include us.”
RNIB is concerned with the general accessibility of Poundbury’s streets for blind and partially sighted people, including shared space areas across the town. The Duchy of Cornwall have now agreed to meet with us to discuss Queen Mother Square, and to consider what can be done.
We hope the Duchy of Cornwall will acknowledge the barriers for blind and partially sighted people in the design of Poundbury’s streets, and agree to changes to make Poundbury accessible. As a new town still in development, it’s a great opportunity for the Duchy to listen to the concerns of blind and partially sighted people, and champion accessible streets for all.
Recognising concerns over the safety and accessibility of shared space areas across the UK, the Department for Transport announced a pause on new shared space developments in 2018. This pause will continue until national planning guidance is reviewed, and further research into inclusive design is complete.
If you’d like to take action on shared space in your area, you can contact your local RNIB Campaigns team by email, or ask to be put in touch by calling our helpline on 0303 123 9999.