RNIB is increasingly concerned about new cycling schemes that are planned and implemented. Many local authorities adopt designs that encroach into walking areas, create shared use spaces and potentially place people with sight loss at risk. We raised our concerns with the Ealing Council.
Earlier this year Ealing Council proposed to create a new route for cyclists along a main road by converting the pedestrian footway into a shared use path. The dedicated pavement would have to go. It was a traffic consultation and the local residents with sight loss only had a leaflet pushed through their door that they couldn’t read. That worried us and the proposal too. So we had to set out all the reasons to Ealing Council why mixing cycle traffic with pedestrians tapping along with white canes isn’t a good idea.
Here is a list of the main issues that shared use paths create for blind and partially sighted people:
Unaware they are walking on a footway where cycling is permitted.
Sudden exposure to passing bicycles at the very least provoking shock reaction and associated negative physical and / or psychological impacts. Guide dog users report their dogs being "spooked" by "close passes" from cyclists which can impair the proper function of the dog for some time.
Inability to see or hear hazards in sufficient time to take appropriate action to avoid the fear of or actuality of a collision.
Inability to see or hear well enough to carry out the necessary communication with a cyclist or cyclists for negotiating right of way including any visual gestures or calls as part of this negotiation.
Necessity to walk excessively slowly and regularly stop, constantly strain to see or hear hazards, together which become physically fatiguing, increase risk of strain injury and have known impacts on personal confidence and positive self-esteem.
Manage own personal risk and maintain acceptable levels of well-being.
Every blind and partially sighted person has the right to travel on their own and without the constant assistance from a sighted guide. Footways allow blind and partially sighted people to assume a very low probability of a moving bicycle or other vehicle being present because it is illegal for motor vehicles and bicycles to move on pedestrian spaces. Based on all existing examples of shared use paths, blind and partially sighted people will experience significant disadvantage in their attempts to make simple journeys on foot. This is not accceptable.