A blind woman has successful brought a judicial review over Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council’s decision to lower kerbs to 30mm as part of a multi-million pound shared-space initiative in Lisburn.

 

The term “shared space” is used to describe a variety of areas where features, such a roadmarkings, crossings, and kerbs are removed.  This is done on the principle that removing these prominent features creates an environment which is more aesthetically pleasing and safer as it improves the user’s awareness. It is claimed that by removing these features, the pedestrian can make eye-contact with the driver in a bid to decide right-of-way.

 

According to the Belfast Telegraph, the court ruled that the council did not meet its duty to measure the impact of the scheme on disabled people, particular blind people. It was found that an equality impact assessment was not carried out, as required under section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

 

Guide Dogs NI and RNIB NI urged local councils to champion inclusive design and make town and city centres accessible to all. The charities said accessibility of public schemes across the UK is an issue that increasingly affects blind and partially-sighted people. They said shared surface streets are a significant safety concern for people who rely upon the presence of the kerb to know they are on the pavement and not in the road.

 

The RSMA has long taken a stance of being against these schemes. We believe that a scheme which aims to improve pedestrian movement and comfort while enabling all users to share space is misguided and potentially fatally flawed.  It is potentially dangerous for vulnerable road users to use these areas; the RSMA welcomes the court’s ruling on this issue.