Memorandum by the Joint Committee on Mobility
of Blind and Partially Sighted People (WTC 42)
WALKING IN TOWNS AND CITIES
1.1 The Joint Committee on Mobility of Blind
and Partially Sighted People (JCMBPS) welcomes the opportunity
to submit memoranda to the Environment, Transport and Regional
Affairs Committee on Walking in Towns and Cities.
1.2 The Joint Committee is an independent
body consisting of representatives of all the principle organisations
of and for blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted people with
a specific interest in mobility. The JCMBPS believes that blind,
deaf-blind and partially sighted people should be able to move
around safely and independently.
1.3 A comprehensive survey on blind and
partially sighted people in 1991 entitled "Blind and partially
sighted adults in Britain; the RNIB survey" revealed that
there were one million blind and partially sighted adults in the
United Kingdom as a whole. A further 750,000 would have difficulty
even with the aid of glasses, in recognising a friend across the
street. Additionally, many blind people also have other disabilities.
1.4 Figures from the 1999 DSS Research report
No. 94 "Disability in Great Britain" indicate there
are now an estimated 1.97 million people with a significant sight
2. JCMBPS MEMORANDA
2.1 The contribution of walking to the Urban
Renaissance, healthy living and reducing dependency on cars.
For blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted
people a safe and accessible pedestrian environment is fundamental
to independent mobility.
Walking provides independent mobility in its
own right and enables access to other forms of travel, such as
taxis and buses.
Walking sometimes makes up an entire travel
chain. Even more significantly, most people access public transport
by walking. In effect walking is the glue that ties together all
journeys, whatever the mode. It accounts for a third of all journeys
and for some blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted people it
is their only form of independent mobility.
If blind and partially sighted people are to
have a active role in and benefit from the Urban Renaissance,
then any endeavour to improve walking in towns and cities must
ensure that walking is safe, accessible and moreover enjoyable
RNIB's research "Lost VisionOlder
Visually Impaired People in the UK" found that 59 per cent
of respondents in the study never go out alone due to difficulties
with moving about the pedestrian environment and in accessing
public transport, and frequently consider themselves to be isolated
and excluded as a consequence.
Enabling more blind, deaf-blind and partially
sighted people to enjoy walking would improve their health, reducing
isolation and so depression, facilitating cardio-vascular exercise,
and providing easier access to facilities such as shops and other
The most frequent form of transport used by
older blind and partially sighted people is a car belonging to
a relative or friend. This is a consequence of the problems they
experience moving around the pedestrian environment and in using
public transport. Walking strategies which take account of the
needs of blind, partially sighed and deaf-blind people will contribute
to a reduction in car dependency.
2.2 The reasons for the decline in walking
and the main obstacles to encouraging walking and increasing the
number of journeys made by foot.
Independent mobility of blind and partially
sighted people is more restricted than that of the general population.
RNIB research "Rights of Way" identified
key concerns of blind and partially sighted people in the street
environment, these included;
A lack of mobility trainingResearch
by The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association states that 88 per
cent of those who had saying it gave them the skills and confidence
to be more independent in moving about the environment.
Obstacles and obstructionsThere
are a wide range of obstacles and obstructions facing blind, deaf-blind
and partially sighted people every time they undertake a journey,
including fixed items like street furniture and changing items
like parked cars or overhanging vegetation.
MaintenanceTen times as many
people go to hospital due to pavement falls than as a result of
road accidents. Cars parked on pavements cause long-term structural
damage to the footway, leaving cracked and uneven surfaces.
Parked carsMore than three
quarters of blind and partially sighted people see parked cars
as a problem where they live. Pavement parking in particular is
a problem, often making it impossible to get past on the pavement.
Parking by junctions also makes it more difficult for pedestrians
to cross road safely and independently.
Cyclists and wheeled hazardsCycling
on footpaths and footways is undoubtedly one of the greatest causes
of concern to blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted pedestrians.
The problemsl with cyclists is that their silent presence is unnerving
and potentially dangerous, the perception of the danger caused
can reduce the confidence to go out independently.
Crossing the roadMany sighted
people feel they are taking their lives into their own hands when
they cross roads. The increasing volume of traffic and high speed
of vehicles is a serious problem for all pedestrians, and one
that increases significantly for blind, deaf-blind and partially
Road crossingsEven where there
are road crossings using them may involve a significant detour
and for blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted people the facilities
they provide may make them inaccessible, for example by lacking
any audible signal or rotating cone. TOUCAN crossings are potentially
very dangerous for blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted people.
The Transport Research Laboratory research "Accidents
Involving Visually Impaired People Using Public Transport or Walking"
suggests that visually impaired people have more accidents when
using public transport or walking than sighted people. Accidents,
injurious or otherwise, encountered whilst walking included those
with overhanging objects such as trees, badly maintained footways
and objects on the footway. A previous experiences of accidents
and the preception of risk whilst walking can severely undermine
the confidence of blind, partially sighted and deaf-blind people
and so their independent mobility and opportunities to walk.
2.3 What should be done to promote walking,
including the creation of city squares, the role of pedestrianisation,
Home Zones, additional measures to restrain traffic, the harmonisation
of walking and public transport and improved safety and security
Blind, partially sighted and deaf-blind people
face innumerable difficulties with walking. Changes to the way
the walking environment is designed and managed, combined with
increased individual support to enable people to walk are required
if blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted people are to benefit
from the Government's walking strategies.
To make walking easier for blind, partially sighted
and deaf-blind people:
At the strategic level, policies to retain and
provide local facilities for day to day activities should be promoted
to make walking a more realistic option. This would have particular
benefits for many older and disabled people.
Enabling people to access facilities in their
own localities through land use policies will contribute to overall
sustainability objectives. For blind, deaf-blind and partially
sighted people it will help ensure independent access to facilities
like banking, primary health care, local shopping and public transport
Site planning is as important as overally location
planning. It is important that any pedestrian route continues
to be accessible even within the curtilage of the site itself.
The location of buildings within sites can influence the overall
distance people walk to reach services located within them. Careful
design can minimise the distance needed to walk, the number of
potential conflicts with other travel modes and improve linkages
with public transport services. There may also be opportunities
to provide pedestrian routes across and around existing sites
that offer shorter trips overall, making walking easier.
Strategic pedestrian routes would enable comprehensive
planning to ensure accessibility throughout the walking environment,
enabling blind, deaf-blind, partially sighted and other disabled
people to move without due restricton from, for example, a bus
station to shopping areas. Within such areas, such as in precincts,
tactile features to enable safe mobility and orientation, the
careful positioning of furniture to remove unnecessary hazards,
the exclusion of vehicles and cyclists and set down points to
enable people to rest would encourage walking by blind, deaf-blind
and partially sighted people.
Transport planning decisions must take account
of the needs of pedestrians, including blind, deaf-blind and partially
sighted people. Too often traffic schemes include measures which
make it difficult for people to cross roads safely in their local
areas, for example with roundabouts, filter lanes or bus priority
junctions. Traffic calming measures and the enforcement of speed
restrictions are crucial to encouraging more walking.
Some of the hazards facing blind, deaf-blind
and partially sighted people are created by the actions of others
and are a product of the way the pedestrian environment is abused,
rather than its design. Problems are frequently experienced with
A-boards, street cafes, parking restrictions and cycling on the
footway. To make walking easier, law and regulation governing
such issues and in pace to ensure that pedestrians do not encounter
such obstacles must be enforced.
For blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted
people even the smallest barrier in a route can make the whole
journey impossible. There is a need for a greater understanding
of the access issues affecting blind, deaf-blind and partially
sighted people and the solutions that make independent mobility
Various references are available detailing access
standards to meet the needs of blind, deaf-blind and partially
sighted people. JMU Access Partnership, a service provided by
the Royal National Institute for the Blind and Guide Dogs for
the Blind Association publish ``Streets & External Environments''
specifically addressing the needs of blind, deaf-blind and partially
Increasing use of shared facilities and the
increasingly illegal use of footways by cyclists is one of the
greatest concerns of blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted pedestrians,
limiting independent mobility.
In encouraging walking, and cycling, there needs
to be a recognition of both users' needs. It is clear that the
best facilities for cyclists are to make it safer and easier to
remain on the carriageway, protecting pedestrian routes for walkers,
who may have no other independent travel choice. The Government
should make it easier to reallocate road space to allow this to
happen, and local authorities should be required to demonstrate
why carriageway solutions are not possible if there is any loss
of pedestrian amenity.
Where there are segregated routes for cyclists
and pedestrians, pedestrians should have priority where routes
Controlled crossings with rotating cones and
audible signals are an absolute necessity for blind, deaf-blind
and partially sighted people.
Mobility training and providing the skills and
confidence to blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted people should
be a key component of any strategies to promote walking.
Additionally, the Committee may wish to consider
how support could be provided to those individuals who otherwise
will not go out alone, in the form of volunteer ``walking partners''.
It is not only the physical environment which
affects accessibility but also how that space is used and managed.
Policies on enforcement were mentioned above. Additionally, issues
like maintenance, street cleaning and waste collection and location
policies can all affect accessibility.
It is important to have effective reporting
of day-to-day problems and issues which affect accessibility.
Issues like how to report defective streetlights or pavement obstruction
should be clear, accessible and explained to all users of the
pedestrian environment. Some local authorities have established
telephone hotlines to report defects and problems and town centre
management approaches show what can be achieved.
It is also important to promote any improvements
which have been made to the walking environment. New journeys
may become possible now accessibility improvements have taken
place or from the greater priority given to walking issues. Promotional
material on walking should include accessibility issues. It should
also be accessible itself, available in a variety of media.
2.3 Whether all Government Departments, their
agencies, including the Highways Agency, and local authorities
are taking appropriate measures, and in particular whether Local
Transport Plans, PPG 13 and the Government Paper, Encouraging
Walking, are adequate
JCMBPS feel that current provision with regard
to walking in towns and cities, and in particular those which
enable blind, deaf-blind and partially sighted people to enjoy
walking are inadequate and would encourage the following:
(a) The work of the three working party's
which culminated in the Government's paper ``Encouraging Walking''
is revisited, and positive outcomes of that work which were not
included in the final document are reviewed.
(b) More research should be undertaken to
establish the benefits of improving opportunities for walking
across all aspects of life, including economic and quality of
life benefits such as a reduction in pedestrian road accidents,
reducing falls among older people, reducing crime and the fear
of crime, and in assisting the Government to achieve its objectives
with regard to general health.
(c) The Government should do more to promote
the role of the pedestrian environment within the context of local
(d) DETR should bring forward for early publication
its guidance concerning infrastructure.
(e) Mobility training, to enable blind, deaf-blind
and partially sighted people to move about the pedestrian environment
should be more widely available and requires additional funding.
(f) Law and regulation governing the pedestrian
environment, such as parking on the pavement, obstructions and
cycling on the pavement must be enforced by the relevant authorities.
2.4 What can be learnt from good practice
both in England and elsewhere
A range of good practice guidance exists concerning
a more accessible pedestrian environment for blind, deaf-blind
and partially sighted people. JMU Access Partnership publish a
technical bulleting ``Streets and External Environments'' detailing
best practice. The Institute of Highways and Transport publication
``Reducing Mobility Handicapstowards a barrier free environment''
recommends how thepedestrian environment can be made more inclusive.
DETR's own guidance on the use of tactile paving should be implemented
by all those responsible for the street environment.
2.5 Whether the relevant professionals have
the appropriate skills and training
Research undertaken by Oscar Faber Consultants
on behalf of the DETR Walking and Cycling Forum found that those
professionals assigned with the task of designing the pedestrian
environment felt that they had an insufficient understanding of
the user needs, and would welcome more training on the issues
involved, including access issues.
2.6 In particular, whether greater priority
should be given to measures to promote walking, including a greater
share of the Government budget and the re-allocation of road space
Greater priority should be given to measures
to improve walking. In particular, more road space should be allocated
to cyclists, so reducing any need for share facilities between
cyclists and pedestrians on footways and also encroachment by
cyclists onto pedestrian facilities.
A greater share of the Government's budget should
be allocated to ensuring that walking can be enjoyed by all sections
of the community, without fear of experiencing environmental barriers
Measures to enable individuals to enjoy walking,
including mobility training for blind, deaf-blind and partially
sighted people should also be given greater priority and funding.
The Government should be more resolute about
reinforcing car dependency by targeting the issue more directly,
encouraging people firstly to stop using their cars as opposed
to indirectly encouraging them to walk.
2.7 Whether national targets should be set
and a National Strategy published
In any national targets, JCMBPS would advocate
specific targets focusing on accessibility being considered as
a sub-set of wider targets.
For example a target considering improvements
in public satisfaction with the condition of the pedestrian environment,
as measured by opinion polls, should ensure the opinions of disabled
people can be highlighted separately, as could single measures
of how many more disabled people are choosing to make journeys
using the pedestrian environment.
Blind, and Partially Sighted Adults in Britain:
the RNIB survey, Burce, I et al, London HMSO 1991.
Disability in Great Britain, Department of Social
Security, London HMSO 1999.
Lost VisionOlder Visually Impaired People
in the UK, Baker M & Winyard, S, London RNIB 1998.
Rights of WayTransport and mobility for
visually impaired people in the UK, Baker M & Winyard, S,
London RNIB 1999.
``Accidents Involving Visually Impaired People
Using Public Transport or Walking''; Gallon, C et al; Transport
Research Laboratory; 1995.
Streets and External EnvironmentsTechnical
Bulleting; JMU Access partnership; 1997.