Lord Chris Holmes: This is the end of the road for "Shared Space".
The new measures aim to make transport fully accessible for all passengers by 2030, and while the infrastructure may take time to build the government has pledged to move 'at pace' around issues such as staff training, accessible information, and the ability to secure redress when things go wrong.
Transport accessibility minister Nusrat Ghani said: 'For our ageing population and the fifth of people who are disabled, access to transport can be far from straightforward.
'This Inclusive Transport Strategy is the first step in achieving a genuinely inclusive transport network, which meets the needs of all people, regardless of whether they are disabled or not.'
Among the key announcements is a recommendation for local authorities to pause the development of shared space schemes, 'while we review and update the Department’s guidance'.
These schemes, which often include the removal of kerbs and crossings, have caused anger among blind and partially sighted groups who claim they make the streets harder to navigate and have created no go areas for the disabled.
A long running campaign spearheaded by Conservative peer Lord Holmes and the National Federation of the Blind of the UK and its shared space coordinator Sarah Gayton, has for several years called for a halt to shared space.
The DfT strategy states: 'We recommend that Local Authorities pause the development of shared space schemes which incorporate a level surface while we review and update guidance. Alongside this, we will temporarily withdraw Local Transport Note 1/11: Shared Space.'
To find out exactly what people with sight problems face, Highways and Transport cabinet member was escorted blindfold down Fishergate's shared space.
The Ratton Neighbourhood Panel will be holding a Public Meeting to discuss the proposal by East Sussex County Council Highways to convert the grass verge and footpath in Willingdon Road to a cycleway.
On 10th/11th November, members of the National Federation of the Blind UK (NFBUK) met at Eastbourne's Afton Hotel for their 47th Annual Conference, the 47th year that the conference has been held in our town.
It had been hoped that on the morning of 11th, local politicians would have joined members to "Walk in our Shoes" around the town. Unfortunately many of them had a previous commitment to the Hampden Park memorial service, so it wasn't possible to do it. It is hoped that this can be re-organised for early in the New Year.
On the morning of 12th November members congregated at the entrance to the pier to meet Stephen Lloyd MP to express their concerns at the proposal to introduce a controversial shared space schemes on Eastbourne's promenades.
Following this event, it was agreed that a follow-up meeting between the MP and senior NFBUK officers should be arranged as a matter of urgency.
East Sussex County Council - Equalities statement
Local Transport Plan 2011 - 2026
Summary of findings:
Local Transport Plan 2011 – 2026 will positively impact four of the six identified equalities strands and demonstrates consideration of a great number of issues appropriate to specific groups in the community.
The emphasis in the preferred strategy lies with implementation of infrastructure to support integrated sustainable travel including such measures as dropped kerbs, new footpaths and more pavement maintenance.
The above statement by East Sussex County Council (ESCC) is very much in line with the Government’s desire to deliver "Active Travel" schemes across the UK; encouraging people to use their own power to transport themselves for utility and commuting journeys.
Afoot is very concerned that ESCC is not “walking the Talk” as, in Eastbourne, the policy being supported is unbalanced and disproportionately “cycle centric”. No attempt has been made to provide equality of movement for pedestrians, the disabled, assistance dogs, children and older residents.
Failure to comply with existing cycling restrictions is not being enforced, which has resulted in cyclists taking over every available flat surface in the town, with a consequent, disastrous, impact on safe walking spaces. This complete abdication of responsibility for pedestrian safety has been compounded by proposals to convert existing seafront and Sovereign Harbour walkways into shared space zones.
The Government’s aspiration is that councils should deliver equal focus on safe walking space and, as the above equalities statement outlines, we should also be seeing new footpaths being built. We would ask, “how much time has been spent by councillors and officers focused on delivering:
- Safe walking schemes/new footpaths.
- Sustainable access for all.
- Cycling strategies”?
Given the Government’s intent to provide safe walking schemes we are exasperated by a number of potential ESCC decisions:
- The loss of safe dedicated leisure walking facilities such as Eastbourne seafront promenade, footpaths in public parks little aspiration from council to ensure safe walking on the Sovereign Harbour walkways. These areas are safe places for families and also represent some of the only places that disabled people feel safe to exercise.
- We are told that our councils cannot enforce control over cyclists, yet examples exist across the UK where it is proven such action can be introduced. This would seem to indicate that there is no desire to enforce the law. Why is ESCC so intent on adding risk of injury in shared areas to pedestrians, assistance dogs, and older people? Why is ESCC ignoring DfT guidelines that pedestrians should remain separate from cyclists or, if shared space is used, that “pedestrians retain priority”?
- Many towns and cities are seeking ways to moderate cycling speed and cyclist behaviour* yet ESCC confirm no such action is planned. One of the designs proposed for Eastbourne promenade even incorporates two sections where the pathway is to be straightened, encouraging faster cycling. This is a proactive engineering strategy to support cyclist “desire lines” at the expense and increased risk to pedestrians. ESCC policy seems wholly biased in favour of a minority group.
In summary we believe that although ESCC has ample powers at its disposal to resolve these issues. By failing to do so it is not only failing to meet its obligation to build new safe walking infrastructure, it is actively striving to reinforce policies that have been clearly demonstrated to be discriminatory.
Existing safe walking areas are to be taken out of the system as are many existing pavements which will be turned into shared areas. Some of these new shared paths will also fall short of DfT/Sustrans minimum width recommendations, which ESCC seems happy to ignore.
Windsor and Eton
Making Oxford Street Work for Cycling and Walking
There is huge support for removing motor vehicles from Oxford Street. However we are hearing concerns about where cycling fits into the transformation plans. We passed this to our head of policy and communications, Tom Platt to tackle.
“We have been saying it since we started our campaign - the successful transformation of the Oxford Street area must include high quality east-west cycle routes through the area and be as easy and attractive as possible to access on bike, including for those who use cycles as a mobility aid.
It was one of our seven principles, set out in our response to phase one of the consultation.
And it's something we’ve continued to push hard for alongside organisations like LCC in our many discussions with Westminster City Council and Transport for London over the last few months. So why not on Oxford Street itself, we are asked?
We believe the most viable solution for cycling in the area is for there to be separate, parallel provision close to Oxford Street.
Walking Cities - Oxford Street
Ambitious plans for the transformation of Oxford Street have been released by Mayor Sadiq Khan and Westminster City Council.
These are plans which promise to make it a more open and accessible place for all Londoners and visitors to enjoy.
Ray Blakebrough has decided to concentrate on working with groups such as Eastbourne Access and National Federation of the Blind, which are opposed to the use of shared areas. Consequently, Afoot (pedestrians in Eastbourne) is temporarily without representation on the East Sussex "Cycling and Walking Strategy". consultation. We hope this will be addressed in the near future.
This means the consultation is, for the time being, 100% cycling focussed, despite the government directive that equal priority must be given to walking schemes.
Despite considerable concern expressed by pedestrians across Eastbourne, local councillors are refusing to fight for dedicated safe walking space and, bizarrely, continue to give their support to "Shared Space" schemes. These have been proved to be dangerous to pedestrians and to discriminate against those with disabilities.
October is International Walk to School Month. Thousands of children across the globe will be celebrating the walk to school. Are you up for joining in?
Living streets is encouraging those with children or caring responsibilities to pull on their wellies, trainers or autumn boots and rate their everyday walks using their nifty online tool.
Rating your walk will make it even more fun and may even make you see your local streets differently. They’ll also give you a walkability score and some tips for what you can do to improve your streets.
For an extra walking adventure, why not take a picture of your stroll, stride or saunter? Ask your children which picture they’d like to share and tag Living Streets on Instagram or Twitter, and use the hashtags #iwalktoschool #walktoschool #IWTSM.
And finally, please keep an eye on social media - Living Streets will be celebrating the walk to school across the month and sharing ideas on how to make the walk to school easier and safer.
A three-day festival is being held in Eastbourne and Lewes to encourage people to get out and about and discover the joy of walking.
The Eastbourne and Lewes Walk Fest, from Friday September 29 to Sunday October 1, is a series of free walks designed for all ages and abilities, graded in ease and difficulty, with a guide to mileage and times they will take to complete.
The event has been organised by Eastbourne Borough Council and Lewes District Council to mark the launch of a new interactive website for residents and visitors to discover new walks, add some strolls of their own, or to find out about walking groups in the local community.
The aim of the walks is to act as a springboard to an ongoing promotion of walking for health, interest, fun and general well-being.
Below is an extract from the blog of broadcaster, Clare Balding'
"We used to walk more regularly here, either to school or to work, and the Victorians even introduced the concept of a promenade walk here to try to improve the health of the nation. This might just be the weekend to rediscover the British version of la passeggiata – take your pick from the local sea front, park or towpath.
It’s a great way of enjoying your surroundings, of socialising and relaxing, all the while getting some gentle exercise. You don’t need expensive walking shoes to make it work – and no one is saying you can’t stop for a cup of tea (or something a little stronger). The important thing is to get out there and enjoy it."
Living Streets has a vision: fix the walk to school and we fix our streets.
Now that school children are getting back into the swing of a new school year, they have some cunning plans for how they're going to go about this.
Whether we are parents, carers or just want to make our streets safer for all, we all have a stake in the Walk to School.
Over the next school year, Living Streets wants to support you and your community to make school walking routes easier and safer in your area.
Today all they need to know is whether you are in.
Walking to Schools Week
Walk to School Week is 15-19 May 2017
Join thousands of children across the country celebrating the benefits walking brings.
Walking to school makes children feel healthier and happier, while reducing congestion and pollution outside the school gates. Yet less than half of primary school children currently walk to school.
ESCC Draft Transport Strategy
Afoot has anonymously been sent a document which relates to the draft ESCC transport strategy for the next five year period. Section 4/13 states quite clearly that the strategy has already been approved for Eastbourne
LibDem Councillors Reject Best Environment for All
As expected, the Councillors of the the controlling LibDem group unanimously voted against the motion below, which was proposed by Cllr Ray Blakebrough at the November meeting of Eastbourne Borough Council.
The Best Environment for all
Afoot is concerned that our council, by ignoring best practices, is leaving itself open to prosecution under disabled equalities legislation and to civil action by members of the public, especially visitors to the town, who are injured as a result
On 22nd July 2015, Eastbourne Borough Council ignored all evidence that shared use of space by pedestrians and cyclists doesn't work, and agreed to amend the bye-law prohibiting cycling on the Seafront promenades, the last designated safe walking area in Eastbourne. Click here to watch the debate.
Caroline Ansell MP said: "I am not satisfied that a thorough transport plan, including all safe-cycling and walking issues in the town, has been presented. So that’s why I am now calling for the bye-law that bans cycling on the seafront – currently the subject of a consultation as to whether it should be lifted – to stay in place at this time to allow for this strategy to be developed, which would include innovative and inclusive solutions to all the transport, cycling and walking issues in the town. Visit Caroline's website.
On Wednesday 18th November, Cllr Ray Blakebrough will put the following motion to the meeting of Eastbourne Borough Council. The meeting will be held at the Town Hall, starting at 6pm.
“That, notwithstanding the previous actions of this Council in seeking to lift seafront bye-laws to enable cycling on the promenade, we request that East Sussex County Council delay any decision to proceed with the implementation of shared promenade walking and cycling proposals, on the grounds that a walking strategy has yet to be developed by the County Council and this needs to be in place and be suitably linked with a County strategy for cycling to ensure that the most suitable outcome for all is achieved.
Further, this request is made in recognition of the fact that there remains a very significant level of public safety concern should the proposed shared use go ahead and the promenade in question does not meet minimum width / capacity guidelines in the LTN 1/12 Government guideline document.”