“Shared space” plan for Glasgow streets criticised

Credit: Wikimedia Commons / wfmillar

Jonathan Peters
Writer

Concerns have been raised over plans to develop certain city streets in Glasgow, as the City Council becomes the latest to propose what looks to be a “shared space” scheme with its design for new cycle paths.
Shared space schemes involve removing demarcations on the road for different transport types, with the intention of reducing vehicle speeds. Opponents of such schemes have criticised the potential dangers that they can cause to blind and partially-sighted people.
In Glasgow, the focus has been on plans to change the layout of Sauchiehall Street and Byres Road, with the former receiving the most criticism for the placement of the cycle paths and the lack of community involvement.
Much of the concern surrounds the placement of the 2-lane cycle path, which, according to the most recent plans, will be on the north side of the street and between the pavement and the bus shelters. This means that pedestrians will have to cross the lane to reach the bus.
On 2 November, Councillor Cecilia O’Lone tabled a motion at a full council meeting to have the plans halted.
The motion stated: “Without a safe walking area and a safe place to cross, shared space areas cannot be used safely by blind or partially-sighted people as eye contact is impossible.
“Walking and moving around in such environments is even more difficult.”
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council argued that the plans do not amount to a shared space scheme, as the cycle path will be separated from the footway by a “delineation kerb with a 20mm upstand”.
They said: “The Sauchiehall Street Avenue (SSA) will not comprise shared space as part of its design.
“A shared space is one which removes the hierarchy of road users. The SSA will instead rebalance the hierarchy, giving priority to pedestrians and cyclists first, then public transport, then other road vehicles.
“The plans for the transformation of this part of Sauchiehall Street have been developed in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and have been informed by the dialogue with various vulnerable user groups.
“It is important to note that the SSA is being taken forward as a pilot scheme and will act as a proof of concept for the Avenues project, and as such will be subject to monitoring and a review process.”
Glasgow City Council is not the first local authority to propose such redevelopment schemes. To the north of the city, East Dunbartonshire Council has been roundly criticised for the implementation of a “shared space” scheme in Kirkintilloch. This involved the removal of traffic lights at two busy junctions, with pedestrians and cars expected to negotiate road crossings without the traditional green or red man.
Speaking to The Glasgow Guardian, Kirkintilloch local activist and blind man Sandy Taylor commented on Glasgow City Council’s plans: “Cyclists, businesses and SPT [Strathclyde Partnership for Transport] have been considered. Disabled people have not.
“The trees have been given more consideration than us.”
Regarding the issue of kerb height and delineation, Mr Taylor, who uses a cane, explained that the 20mm kerb which the council has proposed is not enough for him to recognise, saying: “it’s just a trip hazard”.
He added: “a minimum of 60mm delineation is absolutely necessary for guide dogs, who are trained to recognise this.”
Despite this scheme operating in Kirkintilloch for over a year, the newly elected administration in East Dunbartonshire has already begun consultations to reinstate the traffic lights, at huge expense.
A key criticism of both councils’ plans has been the lack of involvement of local groups for people with disabilities.
My Taylor told this paper: “When I asked Glasgow City Council which organisations for the disabled they had contacted, they told me they had only reached out to the Access Panel.”
The Access Panel is a voluntary organisation representing people with disabilities in Glasgow. They did not, however, respond to the council’s consultation on the shared space scheme, and no other disability organisation was approached.
It was a similar story in Kirkintilloch, with Mr Taylor eventually running for election in the local authority, in an attempt to have the voice of at least one visually impaired person involved in the decision-making process.
Mr Taylor places the blame for these schemes in the availability of funding, with Sustrans, a charity which promotes the building of cycle lanes, responsible for much of the money available to local authorities seeking to implement “shared space”.
He said: “These schemes are nothing more than vanity projects for councils. The disabled are being treated as second class citizens.
“Glasgow City Council are supposed to be inclusive, but these schemes exclude the majority of the disabled people of Glasgow. We are being dehumanised.”