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New cycle-lanes must not place people with sight loss and other disabilities in danger

RNIB Scotland is urging local authorities to ensure that new plans to create temporary cycle-lanes do not endanger blind and partially sighted people.

Last month, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity Michael Matheson invited Scottish local authorities to take advantage of traffic-free streets to introduce additional cycle lanes or expand existing ones.

Mr Matheson also urged councils to engage with disability organisations, so plans do not "compromise the ability of people who have impaired mobility to crossroads and to use pedestrian crossing facilities".

While welcoming the 'Spaces for People' initiative, RNIB Scotland fears this could still exacerbate problems it has been campaigning on for years if too hastily introduced. "New cycle lanes must be created with full regard to pedestrians with sight loss or other mobility issues," insisted director James Adams.

"The problem is that blind and partially sighted people might not be able to see or hear cyclists approaching, while cyclists might simply assume a pedestrian will see them coming. Mobility aids such as white canes getting caught up in bicycle wheels is a further hazard to both."

"We need cycle lanes that are safe for everyone. Maintaining kerbs would help ensure someone with sight loss doesn't inadvertently stray from the pavement onto a cycle lane, and controlled crossings would allow them to safely access bus stops or cross the road."

"New cycle lanes must not be introduced so hurriedly that these provisos are overlooked."

The charity is calling for any extra space for cycle lanes to be allocated from roads and not pavements, for raised kerbs to be maintained, and for warning signs to alert cyclists when they are approaching a crossing.

Over the past few years, RNIB Scotland has encouraged councils to make streets more accessible for residents and visitors with sight loss. It has strongly opposed the 'shared spaces' concept in urban planning where pavements are levelled and pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles all share the same surface.

"More room for cycling is a great idea," said Mr Adams, "but we have to make sure blind and partially sighted people's right to safely move around the streets is protected as well.”

The charity is promoting its Coronavirus Courtesy Code to encourage a better understanding of the needs of pedestrians with disabilities.

The RNIB Helpline is available to help blind and partially sighted people and their families and carers on 0303 123 9999.