Memorandum by Michael Coggles Esq (WTC
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
1.1 The National Federation of the Blind
UK (NFBUK) is the largest campaigning organisation of blind, partially
sighted and blind people with additional disabilities in the United
Kingdom. It is recognised by The European Union as the Independent
Democratic Voice of Blind People in the United Kingdom.
1.2 Insight Southeast was founded by members
of The Kent Branch of the NFBUK to campaign, deal with consultations
and give advice to local authorities, other bodies and organisations,
on the mobility and access needs of blind people, within Kent
and East Sussex. Its members include a former Vice Chairman of
the JCMBPS and former Executive Council Member of both NFBUK and
RNIB, who has served in various committees advising both RNIB
and the NFBUK; several members of local and county Access Committees
and has access to technical expertise.
1.3 There are two million blind and partially
sighted people in the UK and a total of 10 million registered
disabled people. The elderly retired population is growing annually
and it is estimated that by 2020 the retired population will outnumber
the working population. Hence in considering a Walking Policy,
the needs of these groups must be considered as paramount.
2. BRIEF OUTLINE
2.1 We welcome the Walking Policy. It is
a fact that "all journeys begin by walking"to
use a pedal cycle; get into your car; get a bus, tram or train.
All these activities begin by walking.
2.2 Walking is the foundation, the first
building block for any proposed Integrated Transport Policy (ITP).
However, previous administrations, as well as this Government
and its advisors, chose not to start from the bottom up, but introduced
policies on a raft of transport issues before addressing the issue
of walking. Consequently, "walking" is now a low priority
for central government and many local authorities. To introduce
a sound, workable, reliable and safe Walking Policy, will mean
undoing many of the existing strategies and policies, which will
involve considerable additional expenditure, for which funding
bids by local authorities under Local Transport Plan's (LTP's)
have often not been considered or made. No builder constructs
a building without proper foundations, likewise, no ITP should
have been considered without first commencing with a Walking Policy
from which all other strategies and policies would flow.
2.3 Our comments whilst they will deal with
issues, reflect the very real and serious concerns now being expressed
by our members in the South East, as a direct result of the introduction
of ITP policies.
Advantages of walkingparas
3 to 3.2 and Annex "B" and "C"
The major deterrents to walking and
the Walking Policyparas 4 to 4.6 and Annex "A"
NFB National Response to LTP's sections on cycling (pages 1-14)
and walking (pages 15-18)1
Suggestions for improving the Policy
and encouraging walkingparas 5 to 5.4.
3.1 Walking for people of all ages is vital
to good health. For the young it will, together with other activities,
ensure good health in future life. For the elderly, it is an opportunity
for healthy exercise, which will stop the deterioration of bones
(osteoporosis). As many elderly people live on their own, it is
an opportunity for daily social contact and freedom of association,
which is vital to their mental state, general health and well-being.
Too often, the only people they come into contact with, are those
they meet when out walking. For many groups of disabled people
this is the only form of exercise that they can safely engage
3.2 In our crowded towns and cities it is
often the only way of getting out. Hence the need to promote and
encourage walking and to consider innovative designs. Annex "B"
and "C" gives details of informed research into walking,
together with examples of best practice.
4. THE MAJOR
4.1 These may be listed as:
Governments Cycle Policy.
Conflicts of interest at DETR which
have prevented the revision of TGN 2/86 dealing with the design
of Cycle Tracks etc. Delays to the introduction of the Walking
Policy (see paras 4.3). The real views and concerns of blind people
are consistently ignored, the RNIB have betrayed blind people
to gain greater influence in Government. RNIB does not reflect
the views of the wide majority of blind people on this issue.
The unwillingness of police to enforce
the law against cycling on footways etc. Many police officers
advocate riding on footways rather than in the carriageway. See
para 4.4 re ACPO advice to blind people.
Failure of Highway Authorities to
make adequate provisions for pedestrians, before considering the
needs of cyclists and other groups. This is particularly true
when it comes to the costly additional requirements of blind people.
There is no mandatory requirement in Local Authority Safety Audits
to require the use of DETR's "Guidance on use of tactile
paving surfaces" to be considered.
4.2 As a direct result of the Government's
Cycle Policy and the failure to prescribe mandatory designs for
Cycle Tracks, which have a "physical barrier" separating
pedestrians from cyclists by DETR, blind people have been killed,
seriously injured and traumatised (see page 2 Annex "A").
Many blind people now fear to go out alone. DETR are still holding
up the review of TGN2/86 on Cycle Tracks and have consistently
delayed the introduction of a Walking Policyask yourselves
the question "why?".
4.3 ACPO spokesman for the police, has advised
that all blind people, "use a taxi cab or private vehicle,
as the only safe door-to-door mode of transport". The police
have no wish to enforce the law on cycling on the footway, when
they are promoting cycling on the footway, as an alternative to
cycling in the carriageway, especially for school children. The
spokesman went on to point out that "blind people are seen
as a soft target for the opportunist thief, when waiting alone
at a bus stop or on a railway platform".
4.3.1 The average cost of a daily return
taxi fare, within a ten mile radius, for my members in Kent, is
now £18.00. This equates to £126.00 per week for one
return journey per day. Because of the Cycle Policy, blind people
fear to go out alone, many live on their own and cannot afford
additional costs of being accompanied. Hence our request to the
DSS for a Blind Persons Mobility Allowance, to meet these very
real additional costs.
4.3.2 The Department of Social Security
(DSS) recently described blind people as a "minority group",
when considering the application for a special Blind Person's
Mobility Allowance, resulting from the inability of blind people
to walk safely on footways, due to the Cycle Policy. They also
accepted that there would be areas "where blind people would
be excluded, such as some forms of shared cycle tracks".
This is a matter of grave concern to The Disability Rights Commission
Policy Unit. However, no charitable group can afford the legal
costs of testing the issue.
4.4 Because Government and Local Government
are unwilling to consider costly alternatives, because of a "minority
group", many local authorities, whilst being sympathetic
to the concerns of blind people, cannot afford to fully conform
to the DETR advice set out in "Guidance on the use of Tactile
Paving Surfaces". Because the document is not "mandatory",
many ignore the requirement for a trapezoidal delineator strip,
putting in a painted or asphalt line instead. Footways are a "facility"
and as such should be fully accessible and totally safe for blind
people to usethey are not.
4.4.1 DETR have delayed proposed revision
of Traffic Guidance Note 2/86 on Cycle Tracks because of the inevitable
costly outcome. They have delayed the Walking Policy, which would
have caused many local authorities to have reconsidered the Cycle
Policies they were implementing. Because of the requirement regarding
minimum widths of footways.
An existing footway of three
metres, used as a cycle track would provide a two-way cycle track
of 2.5 metres and a minimum footway of 0.5 metres. A pedestrian
with a child or pushchair, a blind person with a guide dog, occupies
1.5 metres to two metres of space. Cyclists' handlebars often
overhang the delineator strip and strike pedestrians as they zoom
Because no Walking Policy existed, local authorities
were encouraged to make use of available footway space, rather
than reduce carriageway widths. Opposition by pedestrians and
other groups was ignored and still is for that matter. In many
areas no footways exist, or are only on one side of the carriageway.
The overall widths of many carriageways would not reasonably allow
for the creation of a footway. Yet pedestrians are being forced
off footways where they exist, in favour of cyclist and motorised
golf buggies used by elderly people. This latter ploy was introduced
by Sustrans to mollify the growing opposition from disabled groups
and the elderly.
4.4.2 The Judiciary have already made their
views clear that pavement "segregated shared facilities"
are dangerous and should not be permitted. They are now of the
view that, "segregated shared facilities" also pose
real dangers, especially when they have no physical barrier or
level difference, due to the narrow width of the delineator strips
involved and the likelihood of being struck by the handlebars
of a passing pedal cycle.
4.4.3 Recently, in an effort to avoid growing
confrontation with local pedestrian groups and Access Committees,
many highway authorities have sought to use quiet back roads and
alleyways to route cycle tracks. Alleyways are not suitable places
for cycle tracks and this change of use, should be resisted and
stopped within the proposed Walking Policy, as they are often
very narrow, dimly lit and there would be no place to avoid a
collision with a cyclist. Legislation on "The Access to the
Countryside", the use of alleyways for this purpose is discouraged.
4.5 Part III Disability Discrimination Act
1995 (DDA) and The Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA), have in their
separate ways introduced 'rights', for pedestrians as a general
group, which were already embodied within previous Road Traffic
Acts and related Legislation. It has always been part of traffic
law, that all forms of vehicular traffic had to give way to pedestrians
using the highway. Equally, when the pedal cycle was invented,
laws were introduced specifically banning its use of footways
and to protect pedestrians. The DDA and HRA have extended these
'rights' to ensure 'that no group of people are excluded or marginalized
by polices, projects or procedures'. These include safe access
to pedestrian facilities; rights of association and protection
of minority groups.
4.5.1 Because blind people are generally
on state benefits, the full costs of supporting such people falls
totally upon the state and local government. Blind people only
get the low rate of DLA Mobility Allowance and therefore are now
effectively, as a result of such policies, being marginalized
and excluded from:
Footways; pedestrian precincts; shopping malls
and seafront promenades should be strictly reserved for pedestrians
and no other form of powered vehicular transport except motorised
wheelchairs used by bona fide disabled people should be permitted.
4.5.2 The seafront promenades were introduced
in the 18th and 19th centuries to enable pedestrians to 'walk'
or promenade, along a seafront. As a direct result of Sustrans'/CTC
influence, and the Lottery requirement by 31 December 2000, that
Sustrans complete the National Coastal Cycle Route. Which they
failed to do (Bexhill being one example). Many local authorities
have been 'persuaded' to take away this 'right' from people and
have introduced cycle tracks along their entire lengths.
4.5.3 In the case of R v Garner, a pedestrian
was permanently disabled, when struck by a cyclist on a promenade
at the end of a Sustrans inspired cycle track at Bognor, West
Sussex. Two days later a blind person was also injured on the
same track. The Judge called for all cycle tracks to be restricted
to the carriageway. In Brighton and many other south coast resorts,
elderly people, blind people, children and other holiday makers
have been seriously injured and traumatised by cyclists on such
tracks (see page 2 Annex 'A'). In Hastings, as a result of objections
by Organisations representing blind people, the local council
are unable or unwilling to inform both The Home Office and DETR,
under what Regulations or Act, they introduced an unsafe cycle
track on the promenade; even though the design was allegedly approved
by 'Sustrans'. The matter is still under investigation by The
Local Government Ombudsman.
4.5.4 The comments in paras 4.4 to 4.5.3, illustrates
the degree of intransigence which exists within DETR and local
government over pedestrian "rights" and safety verses
the Cycle Policy. It also illustrates the flawed nature of the
way DETR have gone about promoting ITP's.
4.6 In any Walking Policy, the pedestrians
and in particular, Blind Peoples rights and needs must be taken
fully into account. If necessary by means of legislation. Otherwise,
for example, paying two million blind and partially sighted people,
a £126.00 a week allowance, which would be uprated annually
in line with increased taxi fares, may have costly consequences
and implications far beyond the ITP.
5.1 A design competitionwe would
suggest the creation of an annual award for innovative design
for pedestrian improvements. Perhaps partly funded by DETR and
partly from shoe manufacturers and building contractors who would
have a real interest, who would obviously benefit from people
walking, would stimulate an interest in improving all walking
It should also look at the materials used to
walk on, inspire research into the use of new materials, including
lighting and security cameras etc.
In Annex "B" you will see mention
of the City of London Barbican area. At first this was rather
sterile, until adventurous landscaping with trees, shrubs and
grass was introduced, creating high-rise gardens, providing not
only tranquil settings amidst the noise of the city, but habitats
for wild life. Are good examples of best practice and should and
would be encouraged by such an annual competition.
5.2 Taking the pedestrian off ground level
by the creation of linear high level walking routes, with access
to shops and offices at that level, is an affective way of utilising
limited space in crowded towns and cities. The creation of walkways
over roads has the added advantage of dampening down noise, as
can be proved in areas of the City of London where this has gradually
been introduced by the Corporation of London. Likewise, routes
along the river fronts and canals encourage people to walk, rather
than ride, especially when they have access to shops, wine bars
and restaurants (Hays Wharf Development for example).
5.3 When promoting car-free zones, you must
be aware of the needs of disabled people. For some groups they
will need vehicle access close to shops etc and this should not
be restricted by time limits. It can take some people 10-15 minutes
to get out of a vehicle. Then to deal with shopping and other
business twice as long as an able-bodied person. From my own experience
being blind with additional mobility problems everything takes
me twice as long as it did when I was able-bodied and fit.
5.3.1 Disabled people do not want greater
bureaucracy, each time they make a journey. This suggestion has
been made by some local authorities, as a way to deter disabled
people making journeys (Ashford Council in Kent being a good example).
5.3.2 Attempts by local authorities to "limit
disabled parking" has led to conflicts of interest. Clearly,
those disabled people on Higher Rate Mobility Allowance, who get
a free tax disc should be given priority. However, currently blind
people, do not get the Higher Allowance, although for reasons
expressed above, they may well use private vehicles or taxi cabs
to get around and because they have an orange/EU Blue Parking
Card, they should be granted the same rights of access and parking.
If such badges were issued only to those on DLA/Attendance Allowance
and by the Benefits Agency, rather than local authorities, much
of the problem would be overcome, as well as considerable administrative
savings being made.
5.4 Blind people require tactile information
and signage to enable them to get about and access such facilities.
5.5 Blind people find pavement obstructions
dangerous, for example:
Chairs and tables outside wine bars
Extensions to shop fronts.
Buskers and other noisy activities
which disorientate them.
Vehicles parked on footways.
The positioning of street furniture.
Pedal Cyclists and electric buggies
used by elderly people (these often go faster than the legally
permitted speedpolice and the Crown Prosecution Service
refuse to act because of embarrassment).
5.5.1 This brings them into direct conflict
with local authorities, who often find themselves having a "conflict
of interest". One the one hand they derive useful revenue
from licensing areas of footway and on the other hand they have
a duty to ensure that the footway is safe and unobstructed. In
such conflicts the interests of blind people are always ignored.
Examples of good practice:
In Westminster, a blind person
walked into an outside restaurant area, causing a women to scald
herself with hot coffee when a table was overturned. The liability,
initially lay with the Council. However, they took advice from
the NFB and changed the conditions of the licences, to make the
applicant for a licence responsible for security and gave examples
of railing in accordance with The New Roads and Streetworks Act,
which prescribes protection of streetworks sites. As a result,
the local authority can now police such licensed obstructions
and if necessary withdraw or fine those who fail to comply with
reasonable preventative safety requirements.
5.5.2 Many local authorities refuse to adjust
street furniture or consider alternative schemes. Example mounting
street lighting on buildings rather than using lamp posts. Councillors
generally object to business interests being changed because of
"bloody disabled peoples rights". Local government too
often finds itself "in a conflict of interest". As a
result the needs of disabled people are ignored on the grounds
that "money talks and principals walk!".
5.5.3 Equally it must be acknowledged that
blind people walking alone can be a real danger. I recently entered
a china shop by mistake and nearly gave the owner a heart attack,
as I turned to leave the shop. It is vital to ensure that blind
and partially sighted people have the proper tactile guidance
information in place:
DETR's "Guidance on the
use of tactile paving surfaces" is a good starting point
and should form the mandatory basis of all requirements.
Involving blind people at the
planning stage in consultations and implementing their suggestions
is vital. Many blind people and local groups, are not directly
represented on Local Disabled Access Committees. The views of
the blind and partially sighted are often given by well-meaning
sighted people, who have little real understanding of life as
a blind person.
Such requirements are often seen, by local politicians,
as an unreasonable "additional cost, detracting from the
architectural design of the proposed project". Also many
local authorities fail to budget for these additional requirements,
due to a lack of awareness.
5.5.4 The NFB have consistently offered
practical advice in this area. In the National Submission on LTP's
sent to all County and Local Authorities in the UK, part of which
forms Annex "A" to this document. It had the affect
of making many authorities "aware of our additional needs".
Some made additional provisions specifically for blind people
in their LTP, as a direct result, but the vast majority have ignored
it. As a result their LTP's are flawed because they take no account
of such needs. The lack of a Walking Policy to guide them, also
meant that in many cases Walking was not really considered . .
. this was a major mistake.
5.5.5 We would suggest that all County and
Local Authorities should be given an opportunity to reconsider
their LTP's and resubmit bids to DETR, in the light of the Walking
5.6 In all Home Zone schemes there is a
real need to ensure that each household has at least one allocated
parking space, to deal with the problems of "on-street parking".
It is no use introducing a pedestrian area/shared facility, if
it is blocked with parked vehicles. The Barbican in the City of
London, has parking for each flat (if residents require it). Thus
enforcement of "no parking" and "no waiting"
is accepted by residents. Without such facilities such schemes
become unworkable and cause conflict.
5.7 Outside our major cities and towns the
problems are different. A county town for example, must be able
to provide cheap, accessible car parking for those wishing to
use the town from the rural area surrounding it. It is no good
introducing tolls and parking charges if you cannot offer reliable
alternatives and in rural and country areas, that will never be
viable or possible. Tolls and charges will just drive people and
trade away from a town. In such circumstances, it is vital to
make better use of a townscape. A long-term answer is to segregate
the pedestrian from traffic by high-level walkways, producing
two-tier towns. Using existing shopping malls as the catalyst
around which such schemes can be built and grow over time.
5.7.1 Remember the landscape, townscape
and cityscape that we have today has taken, in some cases, hundreds
of years to evolve and it will take many decades to affect long-term
Insight South East and National Federation of the
Blind UK (Kent Branch)
12 Annexes not printed. Back