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Confusing colourful crossings are not safe, RNIB tells Mayor of London

RNIB and other charities have written a letter to the Mayor of London outlining safety concerns around colourful crossings, like the recent announcement regarding Tottenham Court Road.

A woman walks with a cane along a street

Colourful crossings, which replace traditional black and white road markings with multicoloured patterns and shapes, are a growing trend. Often introduced to celebrate an event or to encourage tourism, 11 colourful crossings are now due to be installed on London’s Tottenham Court Road. We’ve raised concerns about the safety of colourful crossings in a letter sent to the Mayor of London today.

Pedestrian crossings are essential to the safety of all pedestrians, particularly people with sight loss who often struggle to detect moving vehicles and judge gaps in traffic.

The use of black and white in traditional pedestrian crossings offers high contrast which is critical for people with low vision in helping to  detect them and stay on course when crossing roads. Using designs and colours on pedestrian crossings - inconsistent with traditional designs - can cause confusion and put people’s safety at risk.

After hearing about Camden City Council’s plans to install 11 more colourful crossings along London’s Tottenham Court Road only days before installation started, and with little meaningful engagement with disabled people, RNIB, Transport for All and six other major organisations collaborated on an open letter to the Mayor of London.

Our letter sets out concerns over the lack of consultation on many of the changes to streets which have happened since the pandemic, highlighting the dangers that colourful crossings pose to disabled pedestrians. It reminds the Mayor of his Vision Zero pledge to eliminate deaths and serious injuries from London’s transport network by 2041, as well as the legal duty set out in the Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty to consider and address potential impacts of proposed changes on disabled people. We hope the Mayor will listen to these concerns.

A wide range of people and organisations at a national level share these safety concerns. Earlier this month, the Access Association outlined these points in a separate letter to Government ministers Justin Tomlinson MP (then Minister of State for Disabled People at the Department for Work and Pensions), Grant Shapps MP (Secretary of State for Transport) and Chris Heaton Harris MP (Minister of State for Transport). This letter emphasised concerns around the impact on people with sight loss, dementia, learning disabilities and hallucinatory conditions, neurological effects, and conditions affecting balance.

How councils can help

We want all councils considering installing pedestrian crossings in any design or colour to conduct thorough Equality Impact Assessments,  including blind and partially sighted people. No installation should start before all safety concerns have been fully addressed.