Blind people ‘frightened’ to cross Glasgow roads

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Blind people are “frightened” to cross roads in Glasgow, as hundreds of junctions do not have a rotating cone to indicate when it is safe.

Upgrading the crossings is expected to cost £23m, and Labour councillor Robert Mooney, who is registered blind, has called for the issue to be addressed.

What did he say?

Speaking at a full council meeting, he said: “I don’t care how much it costs, I don’t care where the council gets the money from, this needs to be sorted.

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“Are you happy at putting the lives of blind people and partially sighted people at risk?”

He quizzed Cllr Anna Richardson, city convener for sustainability and carbon reduction, on how many sets of traffic lights are missing the rotating cone and how much it would cost to resolve the issue.

Cllr Richardson revealed there are 890 signal controlled junctions across Glasgow, and an audit had shown that 403 sites did not have the tactile cone.

She agreed it is “an important issue to ensure our streets are as accessible as possible to all”.

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“To upgrade all of these locations would cost in the region of £23m as the traffic signal equipment requires a full upgrade to allow the installation of these rotating cones.”

Why are they important?

The rotating cones are on the underside of pedestrian crossings and start spinning so people with sight loss can feel that it is safe to cross the road.

As part of annual scheduled works, 10 junctions and three pedestrian crossings were updated in 2020/21, and the council installs tactile cones and paving whenever upgrades are carried out.

Cllr Mooney said: “I take your point that it is costing £23m but what it is really costing is blind people will not leave the house because they are frightened to go on the streets because the crossings are not accessible.

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“The people who do have confidence to actually try and navigate the streets are full of anxiety, you have no idea the stress this causes blind people. This needs to be sorted.”

Cllr Richardson said: “I won’t be happy until our streets are safe and we have reduced road traffic accidents, until we have met our vision zero, no fatalities on our roads.

“In terms of upgrading the signals, it is really important and it is part of scheduled maintenance and a percentage of those are upgraded every year as part of that.”

She said the costs are reported to a committee annually and all political groups have to decide “how we make those capital decisions, manage our infrastructure and how we do the best that we can to ensure that our streets are as safe for our community as possible”.

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RNIB response

Sight loss charity Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has urged the council to “commit to ensuring the streets are safe and accessible to all of its citizens”.

Catriona Burness, campaigns manager for RNIB Scotland, said: “People with sight loss should be as entitled to traverse our streets as safely and confidently as everyone else. The alternative is that they are trapped and isolated in their homes.

“As well as the issue of traffic cones and inaccessible crossing points, RNIB Scotland has already expressed our concern that moves to redesign our streets post-covid might work to the detriment of blind and partially sighted people.

“Hastily introduced cycle-lanes, the possible licensing of e-scooters as well as existing street clutter, such as advertising-boards, all add to the potential hazards those with sight loss or other disabilities can encounter.”

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A council spokesman said other measures to help people with sight loss are being introduced as active travel infrastructure is developed across the city, including cane detectable edges at step-free crossings and avoiding clutter with street furniture.

He said all junctions without tactile cones have flashing, coloured lights and audio signals to indicate it is safe to cross.

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