Spaces for People – Inclusion or Exclusion?

I had a really useful meeting today with Guide Dogs Scotland & RNIB Scotland with regard to Edinburgh’s Spaces for People scheme, and the challenges/opportunities it presents for people with sight problems. I learnt a few lessons, not least from this video which they shared.

It is pretty clear that they feel they (and people with visual impairments) have been excluded to some extent from the consultation process. In particular, they highlighted that the Common Place tool is visually driven, and no alternative was provided for people with sight loss- this is shameful stuff.

We also shared concerns about the balance between support for cycling and walking, with things like floating bus stops putting vulnerable pedestrians at a real disadvantage. Their key requests include:

  1. Mobility and accessibility needs of disabled people are fully considered in the planning and delivery of such measures.
  2. It is essential to consider the impacts of any temporary measures on disabled people, including people who have difficulty walking, wheelchair users, people with cognitive impairments, dementia, autism, etc. and people with sensory impairments. This is a legal requirement under the provisions of the 2010 Equality Act.
  3. Many disabled people have found the pandemic extremely stressful. Changes to usual travel patterns, to public transport services, parking arrangements, etc. can add to anxiety. Spaces for People initiatives should therefore be seen in this context – continual changes should therefore be avoided where possible, and should be effectively communicated to the public including disabled people.
  4. Many disabled people depend on cars (both to drive and as a passenger) and taxis. Road changes shouldn’t prevent disabled people from being able to stop near their destination. This is not only about ‘disabled parking bays’ but also considering if measures may reduce vehicle access to kerbs and the flexibility for blue badge holdersto park on single or double yellow lines.
  5. Safe space for pedestrians should be separate from cyclists as far as possible. Any shared-use paths or areas must be designed so that cyclists understand the need to give way to pedestrians and maintain a reasonable distance.

Their guidance to Councils is here:

3 thoughts on “Spaces for People – Inclusion or Exclusion?

  1. Blind people represent an extremely small minority of people living in Edinburgh. If blind people are finding life more difficult due to Spaces for People measures, well then I’m sorry to hear that, but when was the last time a blind person was killed on our roads? I understand the challenges being blind presents to people but in the last 5 years I can’t seem to find a single news article detailing a death or serious injury of a blind person on Edinburgh’s roads/pavements. Compare that to cyclists who, in Scotland, have experienced a 6 year high in deaths, not to mention the vast number of serious injuries. Some of these ‘controversial’ spaces for people measures I have went and investigated myself and I must say I have no idea why they’re so controversial. Let’s start with George IV Bridge. It is almost impossible to hit somebody on George IV Bridge because of the MASSIVE speed hump you’ve now got to cycle over. You’re FAR more likely to hit someone whilst cycling along the Meadows or along the High Road at Holyrood Park. Another ‘controversial’ Spaces for People measure, the Comiston Road cycle lanes, has apparently resulted in a mid-70s couple having to park their car in the middle of the road. WRONG. This couple have a driveway to park their car in which they are now using. About 3 weeks ago I actually witnessed the elderly couple getting out of their vehicle. What they’re doing now is the man who’s driving the vehicle pulls up in front of the driveway, his elderly disabled wife gets of of the car onto the pavements and then he drives up the driveway. The slight bit more inconvenience they’re now having to experience is totally outweighed by the extra safety dozens of cyclists benefit from. Another Spaces for People measure, the Braid Road Closure, is actually beneficial for blind people because if they’re walking along the pavement people approaching them can safely step out onto the road to keep a safe 2-metre distance.
    The same could be said for the Morningside parking restrictions, except people can step out onto the extended pavement’s rather than the road.

    Here’s my point, far more cyclists die or suffer serious injuries on our roads than blind people. It’s only right that they are prioritised above anyone else. I have been to some of the ‘controversial’ Spaces for People schemes and I fail to see how they’d negatively impact blind or disabled people. In fact, some measures would actually benefit them.

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    • Finlay,
      Just because you can find no accidents involving blind people via Google, you think that justifies excluding people with sight problems from the consultation?

      This is a good example of the everyday prejudice people with disabilities face.

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      • Scott,

        Never once did I say blind people and people with sight problems should excluded from consultations. All I said was that blind people represent an extremely small minority of people in Edinburgh and that, from my understanding, none of them have been killed on Edinburgh’s roads or pavements in the last 5 years, unlike cyclists. Therefore, safe cycling infrastructure needs to be implemented, even if it makes things a tad more difficult for the blind. Just as the Braid Road closure has improved things for cyclists, but in the process made things a tad more difficult for cars, taxis, buses and the emergency services.

        But going back to your original point, which is a complete lie, that I think blind people should be excluded from consultation, I’m sorry but what consultation? How many people living on Comiston Road and Buckstone Terrace were consulted about the new segregated cycle lanes going outside their property? How many people that live near and frequently use Braid Road, including tradesmen, were consulted about the road closure before it was implemented? Were all the businesses on George IV Bridge told that new segregated cycle lanes would be appearing outside their businesses?

        The City of Edinburgh Council and consultation are not two words that go together.

        And when people give the council their opinions, loud and clear, the council just ignore them. Look at, for example, the Morningside Parking restrictions. Business after business told you that they didn’t want extended pavements outside their businesses. Did you listen, no! The cones went and then along came red traffic cylinders. They then went and along came concrete blocks with big wands sticking out the top. It wasn’t until recently, after almost 6 MONTHS, that you finally removed some of the parking restrictions in Morningside. 6 months to do something which could’ve been done on day 1. Appalling, disgraceful.

        Now, on to your other point about my apparent prejudice towards people with disabilities, another disgusting nasty lie. I have zero prejudice towards people with disabilities. However, as for you… The council administration is a Labour-SNP administration. Now, only fairly recently a BLIND Edinburgh SNP councillor resigned from the SNP due to an anti-disability culture and is now sitting as an independent councillor. Yet you are still part of an administration with the SNP and their ‘anti-disability’ culture. Says it all really.

        If you so cared about disabled people and people in need, why are you part of an administration that recently cut £60K from further learning disability services, £1million from Home First, a scheme providing care support for people from their own homes rather than hospitals, and £4.1million from the board’s purchasing budget, which funds packages of care and payments that will help people in need of care to live independently.

        I have many disabled family members and to be accused of having prejudice towards people with disabilities is something I am very offended by and I’d like you to apologise for.

        I have been so pleased with everything the council have been doing lately to make cycling safer and, with the exception of the Morningside Parking Restrictions, I am a huge supporter of the Spaces for People measures and on 20th September I emailed you and thanked you for implementing the segregated cycle lanes on Comiston Road. I have also explained to you in my previous comment that many of the Spaces for People measures actually improve things for blind people. But to be accused of wanting people with sight problems to be excluded from council consultations and to be accused of having prejudice towards people with disabilities is one of the most disgraceful things I’ve ever come across from an elected politician.

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