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Calls for ‘shared spaces’ schemes to be scrapped

They were hailed as a pioneering new approach to town centre traffic management. Barrier-free ‘shared spaces’ that could be used jointly by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

But, amid growing safety concerns, there are calls for schemes around the country to be scrapped – including one of the biggest – the £12 million project in Ashford town centre.

It follows a decision to ‘remodel’ the first of the shared space schemes, in west London – a plan opponents say marks the end of the thinking that allowed cars and people to navigate around one another.

Sarah Lambert, Head of Social Change at RNIB, said:

“The decision to reverse the flagship shared space scheme on Exhibition Road, London, following clear research that showed the dangers of such schemes must surely hasten the demise of shared space areas across the country.

“Shared spaces fail people with sight loss. The schemes often remove kerbs and tactile paving which blind and partially people, and trained guide dogs, rely on for safe guiding, and also remove controlled crossings. People with sight loss must feel safe to cross but how can sharing a space with vehicles and cyclists be safe if you can’t make eye contact or see what’s coming?

“Following years of campaigning, RNIB welcomed last Summer’s partial pause to new developments put in place by the Government.

“However, this pause doesn’t apply to schemes that were already approved, or existing schemes, so RNIBand our campaigners continue to highlight the detrimental impact they have on blind and partially sighted people’s lives. Where schemes are reversed, such as this one on Exhibition Road, we are calling for kerbs and controlled crossings to be restored.

“This new research shines a light on how dangerous the schemes can be and must mean that local authorities, and the Government, now commit to ending them once and for all.