Last week we heard back from Transport for London (TfL) and Camden Council about the changes they are making to Judd Street, Midland Road, and the Judd Street and Euston Road intersection. If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll remember the issues: the new kerbs, pedestrian crossings, and no surprise, … tactile paving! The other thing that has come up is the sudden closure of a bus stop that anyone travelling in from East of Kings Cross will rely on to get to both RNIB and the Guide Dogs offices.
Anyone who hears this announcement thinks “what a nuisance, I’ll just have to walk”. It might only be a few minutes, or longer depending how far apart the bus stops are. But for so many of us who cannot see, this simple announcement is serious.
That’s because the prospect of stepping out on a pavement we don’t know is simply quite serious. It involves orientating ourselves along streets which we have no map of inside our heads, crossing often incredibly busy roads and cycle tracks, and feeling disorientated due to the loss of proper kerb edges at so many road junctions these days.
Anyone who cannot see to the other side of the road has to get this information from the ground they are standing on, and this has until recent years been the kerb. Without a kerb to check, the process of stepping out to cross a road is mostly guesswork.
It’s a flick of a switch for the bus operators and a mere administrative instruction at the council, but when the next bus stop is closed, for many blind and partially sighted people, it means problems.
Much of the roadworks have finished now and the good news is – after some pushing from RNIB – three slab tactile paving is back, giving those of us who cannot see a much better chance to detect it. The crossing beacons are complete too and yes! they have rotating tactile cones… well some of them do anyway. On the pedestrian refuges in the middle of the road there are still beacons with no rotating cones. There is also no red tactile paving. This is because the planners decided that red is not compatible with the general visual style of the surrounding area. TFL have said they’ll go back again and put in an even darker grey for the tactile paving. But as red is stipulated in national guidance, nobody knows if this is going to work for people with sight loss; especially at night or when the weather conditions are very grey.
The national guidance on tactile paving was developed off the back of a lot of people’s experiences and consideration about which colour does the job best. So we think not sticking to it just creates more uncertainty and problems, but we’ll continue to press on this.
After some chasing, we have finally heard back from Camden Council about the new types of kerbs which they have fitted along the top of Midland Road (where it meets Euston Road), and our concerns about how detectable these are for guide dog and cane users. They have promised to conduct an audit of the area once the cycle track construction is complete. They also say they are investigating our concerns about tactile paving being badly placed at a pedestrian crossing at the other end of Midland Road, just past the entrance to St Pancras International Station.
We are glad to have re-established communication with Camden Council at last, and thank TfL for keeping in touch and providing updates on the things they are responsible for. We have challenged TfL to replace the light grey tactile paving with red rather than darker grey (in-keeping with the national guidance on this), and asked them to provide us with a valid reason if they do not install the red tactile paving. We will hold Camden to their promise of conducting an audit of the area once the cycle track construction is complete, and we are pushing for this to involve blind and partially sighted people. We will keep the pressure on to ensure that tactile paving is placed correctly for safe use at pedestrian crossings, and we will be keeping a close watch on the development of the new cycle track along Judd Street and Midland Road, as construction work continues over the next few weeks.
The next thing that we’re working to set up is a big walk-over of the finished development. The TfL side of things are mostly finished, but Camden Council still have to install the cycle track on Judd Street which is a massive thing for us. So the scheme is not ready for a final walk-over yet. We asked Camden Council for the dates when they’ll be finished, so hopefully when they do respond we’ll be able to share these.
In the meantime, if you have recently visited Judd Street, Midland Road or the Judd Street / Euston Road intersection and noticed any of the issues described here, or just want to let us know about your experience, or if you want to join the official walk-over when the scheme is complete, please get in touch.