Call for Glasgow council to reconsider ‘shared space’ plan

Shared space at Cowgate, Kirkintilloch
Shared space at Cowgate, Kirkintilloch

Calls for Glasgow City Council to scrap controversial plans to create ‘shared spaces’ in the city centre - similar to the divisive scheme in Kirkintilloch - will be voiced later today.

The proposal for Glasgow has been fiercely criticised by groups supporting people with sight loss and other disabilities.

Levelling pavements and removing traffic lights so that pedestrians, drivers and cyclists all share the same thoroughfare “infringe” on disabled and blind people’s rights, it will be heard.

At today’s full council meeting, Councillor Cecilia O’Lone will table a motion that “recognises the rights of all Glaswegians to be able to walk in safety and confidence”. She will argue shared spaces infringe this right.

Her motion goes on to say: “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 for deaf blind people is even more difficult”.

Councillor O’Lone, who represents the Calton ward in the city’s east end, will urge the council to reconsider its plans.

“Economic development which leads to improvements in our street architecture should be consistent with the needs of all street-users, and not become an additional barrier for disabled people,” she said.

Last August, sight loss charity RNIB Scotland staged a mock up of shared space proposals outside the city chambers in George Square, inviting councillors to try and avoid passing cyclists while wearing special spectacles that simulated different sight loss conditions.

Catriona Burness, campaigns manager with RNIB Scotland, said: “While we welcome moves to upgrade Sauchiehall Street, we remain very concerned about the need for pedestrians to cross a two-lane cycle way to either get to a bus stop or cross the road.

“Blind and partially sighted people won’t feel safe crossing a busy cycleway, while cyclists won’t know a pedestrian stepping out in front of them can’t see them, putting them in danger, too.

“We want the council to either move the cycleway to the south-side of the street, so that pedestrians aren’t forced to cross it to get to a bus, or ensure there is a more distinct separation between the cycleway and the footpath. We’d also like audio-crossing signals positioned along the street.

“We hope with the support of councillors in Glasgow a real difference can be made to the city which is inclusive of people with sight loss and other disabilities.”