The controversial shared space road design has attracted much criticism from road users and pedestrians since it was introduced in 2017, with some drivers and pedestrians feeling unsafe at the busy junction in the centre of town.
Strathkelvin and Bearsden MSP Rona Mackay has welcomed the decision to bring back the traffic lights and says it is needed to attract people back into the town who have been avoiding it since the introduction of the road redesign five years ago.
She said: “This is a very welcome decision indeed and will be a relief to people – particularly the elderly and infirm – who have found negotiating this busy crossing just too daunting.”
Kirkintilloch Councillor Pamela Marshall added: “Shared space has to work for all, not only the most confident road users and pedestrians.
"The return of the traffic lights will reassure our most vulnerable residents.
“We are reshaping our town centre with our community at its heart, creating new spaces to socialise and help support local businesses recover from the pandemic. This also means creating an accessible space for everyone who needs it, redesigning the junction will do that.”
Provost Gillian Renwick said: “The previous Administration avoided making a decision on the Catherine Street Junction for five years, so it is with pride that the new SNP Administration successfully got the Council to pass the motion to reinstall the traffic lights at our first full meeting.”
At the recent meeting, Council leader Gordan Low said the issue had been debated several times in recent years, each time resulting in deferments for further consultation.
He said: “The options have been consulted on, modelled and remodelled and I would suggest the council finally make a decision one way or the other.”
Councillor Low added that public concern around the project had centred on vulnerable road users who feel the space is less usable following redevelopment and this was why he had on three separate occasions moved for the reintroduction of signalling.
An independent accessibility study concluded the space was “hostile” for vulnerable pedestrians, especially visually impaired people and recommended reintroducing traffic signals.
However, Labour Councillor Alan Moir said the safety concerns were less to do with the layout of the junction rather than the behaviour of drivers and the matter was a question of enforcement and introducing unwanted street furniture would “send mixed messages”.
He said risks relating to traffic lights being reintroduced included longer queues and the possibility of drivers rushing to avoid red lights.
At the meeting, LibDem Councillor Susan Murray – who had rejected calls in the past for the lights to be returned – also supported their reinstatement at the meeting, pointing out that the phasing of them could be adjusted to give pedestrians longer to cross if needed.
Seconding Councillor Low, SNP Councillor Pamela Marshall said that although some drivers were courteous and waited for pedestrians to cross, others had been witnessed mounting the kerbs or refusing to slow down on approach to the junction.
She said the lights would reduce confusion over priorities at the junction and benefit visually impaired people especially, and as someone who expected to become a wheelchair user in future she felt especially compelled to speak on behalf of disabled people.
Conservative Councillor Billy Hendry said it would be “remiss” of the council to contravene the recommendations made by officers, especially when reconfiguring the junction would cost several hundred thousand pounds .
Last year the then Conservative/LibDem administration ordered traffic modelling exercises to be carried out to help decide whether traffic lights needed to be reinstated at the junction following redevelopment of the area. The recommendations were against doing so despite demand from local residents.
In summary, Councillor Low said the junction had been consulted on repeatedly and the views of the community had not changed. He added that the underlying issue was making town centres accessible for everyone, including vulnerable people. He said issues with people having to wait longer at junctions were less important than people being excluded from the town centre.
Councillor Moir concluded by saying that new businesses were coming to the town centre thanks to the redevelopment and urged his fellow councillors not to commit “street vandalism” and and undo all the goodwill they had generated.
After votes against amendments from Councillors Moir and Murray it was Councillor Low’s amended recommendations – which include reinstating the traffic lights – which were agreed.