Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Michael Coggles Esq (WTC 100)



  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.


  2.1  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 walking—paras 3 to 3.2 and Annex "B" and "C"[12]

    —  The major deterrents to walking and the Walking Policy—paras 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 walking—paras 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 in.

  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.


  4.1  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 Policy—ask 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 use—they 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.

  For example:

      —  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 passed.

  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;

    —  promenades;

  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 competition—we 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 areas.

  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:

    —  "A" Boards.

    —  Chairs and tables outside wine bars and restaurants.

    —  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 speed—police 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 Policy.

  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 change.

Michael Coggles

Insight South East and National Federation of the Blind UK (Kent Branch)

12   Annexes not printed. Back

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