'Flawed cycle lane could cost a life' says blind Glaswegian
A BLIND man has told how he fears lives are being put at risk due to ‘flaws’ in the placement and design of a cycle lane in the heart of Glasgow.
Terry Robinson, who lost his sight completely at the age of 14, says it’s impossible to navigate safely across part of Sauchiehall Street due to a lack of tactile paving which would warn the visually impaired that they are about to step onto a cycle path or road.
He also claims that other parts of Glasgow are not accessible, including the junction at Darnley Street and Nithsdale Road.
Terry, 58, lost his vision due to a rare genetic illness that caused his eyes not to form properly in the womb.
He exclusively told the Glasgow Times: “As someone who relies on a long cane to get around, it is impossible for anyone who is seriously visually impaired or blind to get about this part of the city safely. It’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured, the design of parts of Sauchiehall Street specifically are an accident waiting to happen.
“The layout means that it’s very difficult to tell where the pavements cease, and the cycle lane begins. There is no tactile paving on some parts that would act as a warning, so you can end up on a cycle path with people whizzing past on bikes and not even realise. It’s incredibly dangerous.”
Terry, who lives on Glasgow’s Southside, added: “It has reached the stage now where I dread having to go into the city centre and try to avoid it as much as possible. I just feel like the safety of those with a visual impairment is being ignored. Trying to navigate across a cycle lane or around a floating bus stop is hazardous and improvements need to be made urgently.
“Trying to get across the crossing at Darnley Street is also especially dangerous now as there are no working tactile cones on the lights. People with sight loss are being made to feel more and more isolated.”
Concerned Labour councillor Robert Mooney is also backing Terry’s call for change to make Glasgow’s streets more accessible for all.
He says that he has been fighting City Chambers bosses for five years to have issues such as those raised by Terry addressed.
Councillor Mooney, 66, who lives in Cardonald, added: “The fact that people with loss of vision are finding themselves walking onto a cycle path at such a busy part of Sauchiehall Street is an absolute disgrace - it’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt.
“Surely, this should be a priority and it begs the question why nothing is being done when I have raised this type of issue time and time again.
“Essentially people don’t feel able to get around confidently without fear of potentially serious injury. Around 85% of people with sight loss are over 65 and I’m hearing from pensioners who are too scared to leave their homes because they feel getting around parts of Glasgow has become a danger. As far as I’m concerned, this needs to be sorted out right now.
“We also need an urgent review of junctions across the city, especially the rotating cones at lights. They are a lifeline for people who have no other way of knowing when it’s safe to cross.”
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Audible beeping signals or rotating cones alert a person with sight loss when to cross a road. The cones are on the underside of pedestrian crossings signals and start spinning to allow people with sight loss to know when it is safe to step out.
We previously told how councillor Mooney, who was born with albinism that has affected his sight, has himself almost been run down due to issues navigating busy junctions.
He added: “I have some vision but there's been times when I’ve been walking around Glasgow, and I genuinely thought I’d end up being hit by a vehicle.
"I can fully appreciate how Terry feels, I often think when I’m struggling to get around how hard it must be for others.
“The design of Sauchiehall Street is very poor. I just won’t go near it because there are no strips of tactile right in front of cycle lanes. Blind people are on the cycle path with no warning. I’ve raised objections to this and issues on various other streets in Glasgow, but they have fallen on deaf ears.
“The council should do the decent thing and invest in keeping people safe before a tragedy occurs.”
Catriona Burness, parliamentary and policy manager for RNIB Scotland, says that more thought needs to go into the design of the city’s pavements and roads.
She added: “Across Scotland there are many new road and street developments which are important updates to our infrastructure, however far too often the design and delivery of these developments do not properly take into account the needs of disabled people, including the blind and partially sighted.
“RNIB Scotland is continually contacted by people with sight loss who feel unsafe navigating our streets due to poorly designed so-called floating bus stops, imperfectly designed cycle lanes and the lessening of space on pavements due to ever more street furniture including A-Boards and cafe sprawl.
“There are design solutions to be explored that both promote active travel and enable blind and partially sighted people to travel safely. This will meet the needs of all of our citizens."
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A spokesman for the council said: “The Sauchiehall Avenue was the pilot project for the other city centre Avenues that will follow and the design strategy sought to take the views of a number of different user groups into account, and balance their various needs.
“We have continued to seek these views on the design of streets and public spaces to support the different groups as best we can through the establishment of the Accessible and Inclusive Design Forum (AIDF).
“The AIDF was established by the council to provide an opportunity for disabled people and other people who walk, wheel and cycle to articulate the challenges they face when using the city’s streets and public spaces.
“The dialogue at the forum has informed the work of the council’s design and engineering teams and is helping to ensure that new designs for streets and public spaces in Glasgow go beyond what is required by national standards.
“This includes measures such as give way markings on cycle lanes to provide pedestrians priority and adjusting the layout of lanes to slow the speed of cyclists where necessary.
“Working together, the forum will help make Glasgow’s streets and public space safer and more comfortable for disabled people and people who walk, wheel and cycle.
“We are aware of the issue with the signals at Darnley St and Nithsdale Road. We will ensure this junction is put on the priority list for traffic signal upgrades.”