Streets and Spaces

We’re campaigning to ensure that our streets and public spaces are safe for people with sight loss. A well-designed traditional streetscape enables pedestrians to feel safe and helps road users to understand clearly what is expected of them.


On this page

Street Clutter

Our survey last year showed that 97% of people with a vision impairment have problems with street clutter, such as shop advertising signs (A-Boards) and street cafe furniture, which are littered across the pavement.

A clearer high street, where obstacles like A-boards and cafe furniture are placed consistently, leaving plenty of room for pedestrians to walk past, not only makes for a safer place for those who suffer from sight loss, but also a nicer, more inviting place for all shoppers. We are campaigning for tidier, more accessible streets. 

 
The main road through my town centre has so many A-boards in it that it feels as though you are running a 3,000 metre hurdle race rather than walking through a town centre. Many people have complained to the council, and it has been in the local press. The council have said these boards are not licensed and they intend to take action.
Guide dog owner, Lancashire

Shared surfaces  

Shared surface streets are dangerous for people with a vision impairment, who rely upon the presence of the kerb to know they are on the pavement and not in the road.

Shared surface streets (sometimes called a level surface) 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. In some cases, controlled crossings (pelican crossings) are also removed.

The shared surface concept is intended to be a way to provide an attractive street environment with slower traffic, less street clutter and a ‘people friendly’ space.

Key concerns for people living with sight loss:

  •  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 people living with a vision impairment.

  • People rely on the kerb

People with a vision impairment, particularly guide dog owners and long cane users, use the kerb as a navigation tool to know where they are in a street.

As a result, many people with sight loss, disabled and elderly people have said that they feel unable to use the shared surface street in their town. 

 
As a pedestrian I was unsure vehicles would stop, as a driver I was unsure vehicles would stop and who knew who had the right of way, and as a cyclist it's extremely intimidating.
Julie Headley, guide dog owner, Coventry

We continue to work with other organisations representing disabled people, older people and others who are put at risk by shared surfaces, and raise concerns about current and future projects. 


Pavement Parking

When vehicles are parked on pavements, people with a vision impairment may have to risk their lives by walking into the road just to get by them. This is an issue that also impacts parents with children, wheelchair users, older people and many others.

Our research shows that 97% of people with a vision impairment encounter problems with street obstructions, and 90% of those had experienced trouble with a pavement parked car. Pavement Parking laws and guidance are different in the four nations of the UK.

England

In England, we are calling on the Westminster government for a standardised law across the country that would make it clear that pavement parking should be the exception, not the norm for motorists. The one clear law would give local authorities real power to properly tackle this problem and stop pavement parking unless in a specifically designated area, in line with Greater London.

Scotland

In Scotland the government are currently implementing a similar system and asking councils to local authorities real powers to properly tackle the issue.

Wales

In Wales the government are currently looking into allowing civil enforcement officers to ticket vehicles causing an unnecessary obstruction on the pavement. This is likely to have a more limited effect on pavement parking, as it relies on councils deciding to enforce against problem pavement parking. 

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland if a problem of an obstruction arises as a result of vehicles parked on a pavement that situation is a matter for, and can be dealt with by, the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Write to the Secretary of State for Transport asking for action to tackle dangerous pavement parking.