Shared Spaces Campaign
What's the problem?
Shared space is a new design concept for town centre and high street developments, often delivered by means of a shared surface street design. In most cases the design involves removing the kerb that has traditionally separated areas for vehicles and pedestrians creating a shared surface street.
The shared space concept aims to create attractive shared 'social' areas and to reduce the dominance of vehicles to make streets more 'people-friendly'.
In shared surface street design of the road and its surroundings are altered to cause changes in the behaviour of drivers, encouraging them to be extra cautious as they negotiate the new road layout.
Pedestrians, motorists and cyclists need to make eye contact to establish who has priority. However this puts blind and partially sighted people at a serious disadvantage.
Blind and partially sighted people, particularly guide dog owners and long cane users are trained to use the kerb as a key navigation cue in the street environment. Its removal, without a proven effective, alternative feature, exposes blind and partially sighted people to greater risk, undermines their confidence, and so creates a barrier to their independent mobility. The kerb is also vital for children's safety when using roads. From an early age children are taught as part of the Green Cross Code to Stop, Look, and Listen at kerbs. If these kerbs are removed, how will children know where to stop?
Guide Dogs supports the aim of creating attractive 'people-friendly' street environments but opposes the use of shared surface streets to achieve this. For background information on our previous campaigning work on the issue of shared surface streets, please read a copy of our Campaign report.
Shared surface streets are not just an issue for blind and partially sighted people. Our concerns have been well-supported by a wide range of disability organisations who have concerns about the dangers of these street designs for other vulnerable road users.
Shared Spaces Campaign
What do we want to change?
A guide dog owner on a shared surface street
We want to stop the introduction of shared surface street schemes across the UK.
. The Government across the UK to take leadership, and ensure guidance is issued to local authorities on how streets should be designed without recourse to shared surface streets.
. Local authorities must stop commissioning shared surface streets as such schemes discriminate against blind and partially sighted people.
. Designers and planners to challenge themselves to create attractive people-friendly streetscapes that have inclusion at the heart of the design.
Effective and meaningful consultation with blind and partially sighted people, and people with other disabilities, is also vital during any urban street design planning. It is essential that the Disability Discrimination Act and current Government policy and guidance on inclusive design, social inclusion and meaningful community involvement are taken fully into account during the designing development and delivery of any new streets.
It is imperative that local authorities test proposed new designs before they are implemented and consult local groups and disability organisations at all stages in the process of developing our streets. This does not mean that voluntary groups, or indeed disabled people themselves, should be expected to provide solutions. It is the responsibility of designers and planners to meet the needs of disabled people in the built environment by designing and implementing safe accessible streets for all users.
Shared Spaces - Research Reports
Design trials research with University College London (UCL)
Guide Dogs looked at how to delineate a safe space in a shared surface street if a traditional kerb is not used. Working with UCL (University College London). The results found that none of the delineators tested were effective enough for us to recommend using between areas for pedestrians and vehicles.
Effective Kerb Heights for Blind and Partially Sighted People (word) 588kb
Effective Kerb Heights for Blind and Partially Sighted People (pdf) 699kb
The Design Trials research report. Link to 'Testing proposed delineators to demarcate pedestrian paths in a shared space environment' is available here to download.
Focus group research
We undertook in-depth research in to the experiences of blind and partially sighted people in shared surface streets in both the UK and in the Netherlands where 'shared space' advocates that shared surface streets work well. We assessed the risks and impact of these schemes and found that the safety, confidence and independence of blind and partially sighted people was undermined with parts of some towns becoming no-go areas.
We commissioned RambØll Nyvig, an international design practice specialising in streetscape and public realm design, to consider how shared space street design could include the needs of blind and partially sighted people. In their report 'Shared space - safe space' they advised introducing a 'safe space' in any shared space street design. This 'safe space' is an area equivalent to a pavement where vulnerable pedestrians would feel safer, but would not prevent the remaining area being shared by other pedestrians, motorists and cyclists. The requirement for a 'safe space' was recognised in the 'Manual for Streets' report, published by the Government in 2007.
Recognising the issue
The Department for Transport has recognised Guide Dogs' concerns about the implementation of shared surface streets in shared space street designs. They have commissioned research to provide evidence based guidance on implementing shared spaces. Guide Dogs will participate in this research on the Sounding Board.
The Disabled Person's Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) - advisors to the Government - has issued a statement sending a clear message to local authorities that in a shared space, kerbs must be retained until an effective alternative is found. DPTAC Statement can be found here.
The Commission on Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has also recognised the issues in their publication 'Civilised Streets'.
Guide Dogs has created an advisory booklet for local groups concerned about the use of shared surface streets in their town centres so that they can get involved in the development of any schemes.
Briefing for Local Groups (word) 41K