Cyclists could be made to be more aware of safety on shared spaces, with the House of Lords recommending the mandatory fitting of bells on bicycles to prevent accidents at a debate last week.
The suggestion was raised during a discussion on the dangers that blind and visually impaired people are subject to when using shared space road schemes, where there is nothing to segregate vehicles, bikes and pedestrians. It was argued that the small cost of fitting a bell to warn visually impaired pedestrians would provide significant decreases.
Shared space schemes are usually popular with the majority of residents as they create a greater impression of openness and can be more aesthetically pleasing, offering unified spaces with lower or nonexistent kerbs rather than strictly paved and surfaced areas.
The drawback to these areas though, is that those with sensory disabilities, such as blindness and deafness, are often put at a much greater risk than when using normal, pediestrianised areas. It’s a fair point, and one that was raised by the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Bradshaw who made the suggestion that the audible warning a simple bicycle bell provides could potentially reduce accident figures significantly.
Former Paralympic swimmer, Lord Holmes, who is blind, also noted that several towns and cities have already changed their positions on shared space crossings. So far Warrington, Blackpool and Gloucester have performed u-turns on their policies and scrapped plans for shared spaces, as they no longer give pedestrians priority, instead relying on motorists’ discretion.
The Transport Minister, Baroness Kramer, has agreed to look into the matter further, but did note that the Government already issues guidelines to local councils to help them plan more effectively for those with disabilities.
She also commented that well-designed shared space could work well for people with disabilities.
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