Our recommendations

Advice for businesses and councils

Having a clear pathway is crucial for many blind and partially sighted pedestrians who wish to navigate along their high street independently. Street clutter such as A-Boards, bicycle racks and static council bins can cause obstructions which can hamper a person’s progress along a high street.

The Guide Dogs Street Clutter Survey 2012 sought to better understand the problems caused by everyday obstructions and to identify which high streets need to most urgently address the problems of street clutter.

Following publication of the results, Guide Dogs made six key recommendations for businesses and councils.

Ideally Guide Dogs would like High Streets to be clutter free as regardless of their placement items such as A-Boards will always potentially cause an obstruction.  However; Guide Dogs understands that A-Boards and other items of street clutter may be unavoidable. In such circumstances we have the following guidelines to help councils and businesses limit the disruption caused by street clutter and maximise the use of exterior advertising tools:

  • Street Clutter should be positioned consistently along a pavement, leaving an unobstructed pathway for pedestrians.
    Guide Dogs do not recommend whether this should be along the walls of the building or the kerb; however, whichever placement is preferred by the council or businesses should be applied consistently along the street. Once a position has been agreed upon this should remain consistent everyday to help blind and partially sighted pedestrians learn to avoid these obstacles along the route.
  • Where possible a gap of 1.5 metres should be left on the pavement for pedestrians to pass unobstructed.
    Walking with a guide dog can mean a person needs more room to walk along a street than if they were unaided. Therefore a space of 1.5 metres on the pavement should be large enough for a guide dog and owner to fit comfortably through and should be left whenever possible. A space should also be left between items to ensure pedestrians can enter and leave businesses without unnecessary obstruction. This could also help Wheelchair users to move freely along the pavement.
  • Businesses should only use A-Boards where necessary.
    If an A-Board simply repeats information from the shop front then a business should question whether the stand really required.
  • Items of street clutter should always be painted in a strong colour contrast or marked with colour contrasting hazard tape.
    A strong colour contrast which stands out against the item’s surroundings and in different weather conditions will help partially sighted pedestrians identify and manoeuvre around an obstacle more easily. This should also be considered for temporary items of street clutter such as ladders.
  • Councils should consider introducing licensing for A-Boards to ensure appropriate use along the high street.
    The Highways Act 1980 places a duty on Highway Authorities to maintain roads and footpaths for the safety of users. In particular Section 148 highlights that if, without lawful authority or excuse, a person deposits any thing whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway it is an offence which is liable to a fine. In Scotland similar guidelines are expressed in Transport Scotland's Good Practice Guide for Roads 2009. Guide Dogs believe a licensing system would be a clear way for council’s to enact this duty.
  • Councils should consider the enforcement of sectioned off areas of Café street furniture.
    There are multiple benefits to sectioning off outside areas of café tables, chairs and other furniture. Using structures with both top and bottom tapping rail will aid blind and partially sighted pedestrians who use a long cane from walking into table and chairs and disturbing customers enjoying their social activity. In turn it will prevent such customers from having someone walk into them with a stick or long cane. A further benefit is security as customers may feel more relaxed having their bags and shopping protected behind the covering. Such structures could also be used for advertising, reducing the need to have A-Boards and other advertisements cluttering the environment. These structures could also restrict businesses and customers from encroaching beyond their allocated space and thereby preventing them from obstructing the footway for passing pedestrians.