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.
Shared surface streets are dangerous for people with sight loss, who rely upon the presence of the kerb to know they are on the pavement and not in the road.
The shared surface concept is intended to be a way to provide:
- an attractive street environment with slower traffic
- less street clutter
- a people friendly space
Guide Dogs has been campaigning against the use of shared surface streets as part of our Streets Ahead campaign, supported by organisations representing disabled people across the disability sector, older people and other groups.
Key concerns for people 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 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 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. People with learning difficulties, people who are deaf or hearing impaired, older people and young children can also experience difficulty with shared surface streets.
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
Guide Dogs has done in-depth research into the problems of shared surface streets and potential ways forward
The impact of shared surface streets and shared use pedestrian/cycle paths on the mobility and independence of blind and partially sighted people.
This report provides opinions on shared surfaces from a survey of 500 people with sight loss.
Effective kerb heights for blind and partially sighted people
We commissioned University College to carry out controlled tests of different kerb heights for people with sight loss. Their PDF report supports a minimum kerb height of 60mm.
Road and street crossings for blind and partially sighted people
This report looks into the importance of road crossings to blind and partially sighted pedestrians, as well as their experiences of shared space areas.
Safer Crossings Qualitative Research, October 2014
This research examines blind and partially sighted pedestrians' experiences and awareness of different types of road crossings and their features.
The Importance of controlled crossings for people with sight loss
Using the experiences of people with sight loss, this guidance provides practical suggestions to ensure that modern street design is not only attractive but also accessible.
Streets Ahead Campaign Toolkit, which includes Shared Surfaces and has tips and information to support local campaigning.
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