Andrew Hodgson, the president of a charity for blind people, is highly critical of new cycling infrastructure in Enfield
The National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK) is concerned that councils are ignoring their obligations under equality law and designing road layouts to make towns less accessible to blind people.
We have visited several areas recently where planners have clearly not considered the needs of blind and disabled people. The Mini Holland cycle lane schemes funded by Transport for London (TfL) have created real distress. In Enfield, bus bypass and ‘Copenhagen’ shared-use bus stops have been introduced, which force passengers to cross cycle lanes to board their bus – especially dangerous for those who are blind.
Research in Denmark revealed that bus stop boarders present a particular hazard for all pedestrians; their introduction led to an increase in collisions with passengers from five to 73 – a 1,725% increase in collision rates on what had been expected.
NFBUK has regularly pointed out the dangers of boarder bus stops for all passengers, but especially blind people. Bus stop bypasses – also known as ‘floating’ or ‘island’ bus stops – present dangers as well. After years of complaint about bus stop bypasses, TfL commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to investigate how to improve safety. Their report last year recommended that zebra crossings be installed at all such bus stops, although TRL found little improvement in the numbers of cyclists who stopped for pedestrians after zebra crossings were added.
Other recent changes to road layouts have brought particular dangers for blind people. At some places in Enfield, pedestrians have to cross the cycle lane first before they reach crossing controls or get on or off a bus. NFBUK’s shared space co-ordinator Sarah Gayton said she was “shocked” at what she saw in Enfield and that bus stops which put pedestrians and cyclists in the same place at the same time were “inherently dangerous”.
If the needs of blind and disabled people had been properly taken into account in designing Enfield’s Mini Holland, we would not have ended up with this dangerous and discriminatory scheme. It is for this reason that we have recently supported a petition, organised by Enfield residents and submitted to the government, asking for a strengthening of the law relating to Equality Impact Assessments. If these administrations had properly fulfilled their duties in this regard we would not be having to fight such discriminatory schemes now.
NFBUK recognises the value of attempting to encourage more active transport. However, designs must enhance and safeguard the independent mobility of disabled and vulnerable pedestrians and their safe access on and off of transport, as well as ensuring the safety of cyclists. We are happy to engage with design teams to ensure future changes take the needs of all pedestrians into account