Why do we campaign on shared surfaces?

Shared surfaces are where the road and pavement are built at the same level, removing the kerb so that cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians share the same surface. Shared surface streets are dangerous for blind and partially sighted people who rely upon the presence of the kerb to know they are on the pavement and not in the road. Controlled crossings (such as pelican crossings) are also often removed which rely on eye contact with motorists to negotiate priority when crossing the road.

The problem of shared surface streets

Shared Surface Street225

The shared space concept is intended to be a way to provide an attractive street environment with slower traffic, less street clutter and a people friendly space – all of which are welcome. However, one of the ways of implementing a shared space scheme is by introducing a shared surface street, sometimes called a level surface.

A shared surface street is where the footway and carriageway are at the same level with no distinct pavement with kerbs, and in some cases the removal of controlled crossings. Some schemes also have raised junctions where the carriageway is raised to the same level as the footway meaning that cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians have to share the same surface. The idea is to encourage drivers to be more cautious.

Guide Dogs has undertaken in-depth research in to the problems of shared surface streets and potential ways forward. Guide Dogs has also been campaigning against the use of shared surface streets, supported by organisations representing disabled people across the disability sector, older people and other groups.

Key concerns for blind and partially sighted people

  • You have to make eye contact

Pedestrians, motorists and cyclists have to make 'eye contact' to decide who moves first. This obviously compromises the safety, independence and confidence of blind and partially sighted people.

  • People rely on the kerb

Blind and partially sighted people, particularly guide dog owners and long cane users, use the kerb as a navigation clue to know where they are in a street.

  • Avoidance

Many blind and partially sighted people, disabled and elderly people have said that they feel unable to use the shared surface street in their town.

  • Concerns of other disabled people

People with learning difficulty, people who are deaf or hearing impaired, older people and young children also experience difficulty with shared surface streets.

You can read tips on campaigning on this issue in our Streets Ahead Toolkit. Alternatively email campaigns@guidedogs.org.uk with your contact details and we will put you in touch with your local team so you can help with their work in your area.


Want to help Guide Dogs' campaigning work? Join our e-campaigner mailing list and be kept up to date with all the latest campaigns news and actions every few months.

Shared surface graphic (bricks tilted)

“Taking away the curb is the equivalent to turning off the lights for a sighted person. Without a clear indication of where the pavement ends and the road begins, it is impossible to move around confidently, shared surfaces put our lives at risk”