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Campaign against Kirkintilloch ‘shared space’ picks up momentum

TRANSPORT Minister will give evidence to the Public Petitions Committee on the safety issues of shared space in Kirkintilloch.

In the biweekly Public Petitions Committee on September 29, a petition on the safety issues surrounding the shared space project in Kirkintilloch town centre was addressed.

The petition reads: “‘Shared space’ schemes are designing many blind, deaf-blind, disabled, and other vulnerable people of their Town Centres as due to uncontrolled Courtesy Crossings they can no longer access their High Street.”

When the issue was raised in the Public Petitions Committee meeting on September 29, Rona Mackay MSP said: “I declare an interest in the petition, as the petitioner is from my constituency and I have been backing his campaign from the start and continue to do so. I am well aware of the issues surrounding the petition.”

The construction work on the shared space began in February this year amid criticism of its safety. Blind campaigner Sandy Taylor led the protest against the scheme put forward by East Dunbartonshire Council.

The ongoing campaign has been reported by BBC News, as well as continuing coverage by the Kirkintilloch Herald.

Rona has supported the campaign from the beginning. Prior to being elected as an MSP, she said the design was a “disastrous decision” by East Dunbartonshire Council.

At the Committee meeting, Rona said: “I would be very keen to have the Minister for Transport and the Islands in to give evidence to the committee on the issue at a future meeting.

“I would also like the petition to be referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, because the petitioner states clearly there is a breach of the human rights of the less able in the community, who effectively feel barred from their own town. The design of the shared space initiative in Kirkintilloch is entirely unsuitable and it has caused a huge amount of public anger.”

Rona’s suggestion has led Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Minister for Transport and the Islands to give verdict at a future meeting of the Committee.

“Shared space” is poorly defined concept in traffic design, but it mainly refers to the practice of creating a levelled surface for vehicles and pedestrians to use at the same time. Advocates for the design boast of its ability to reduce traffic congestion and to increase road safety. They argue that when vehicles share the same road with pedestrians, the drivers have to be more careful.

The concept of shared space originated in the Netherlands in 1968. In recent years, it was introduced in UK, with examples from Ashford in Kent and Poynton in Cheshire.

Although in theory, shared space can reduce the number of traffic accidents, but it fails to take into account the danger it poses to the disabled community, especially the visually impaired.

Shared space only offers “courtesy” crossing, where traffic lights and signals are removed because controlled crossing is deemed unnecessary. And by taking away the audio aid from the traffic light post, people who are blind will no longer be able to cross the street safely.

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