MP David Amess has called on the Government to reconsider shared space schemes like City Beach in Southend after walking through the streets blindfolded.
The Conservative MP for Southend West called on Prime Minister David Cameron to look at Guide Dogs for the Blind’s recommendations on the schemes after the charity led him on a blindfolded walk through Leigh.
Shared spacem, which encourage motorists, pedestrians and cyclists to mingle freely, has been introduced on Southend seafront and outside Southend Victoria station.
Mr Amess told Mr Cameron: “Last week, I undertook a one and a half hour walk organised by Guide Dogs for the Blind to experience at first hand the difficulties that blind and partially sighted people experience as pedestrians. It was very tricky.”
Campaigners claim shared space schemes are dangerous as the level road and pavement surface means the blind and partially-sighted have no idea where they are standing.
The concept, in which pedestrians are meant to be able to step out in front of a car without fear of an accident, also relies on the pedestrian making eye contact with a driver to establish who has right of way, which is almost impossible for those with sight problems.
Guide Dogs for the Blind’s mobility instructor Norman McIver and guide dog Zeeta led Mr Amess through Leigh Road and London Road, in Leigh, which proved especially difficult in terms of disabled mobility.
The MP said: “This was a very valuable experience. It has opened my eyes to the many difficulties that blind and partially sighted people must experience in their everyday lives, performing some of the most basic activities, such as shopping.
“It was a very odd feeling to suddenly lose one of my most important senses, and I now ever more appreciate the wonderful work that guide dogs and their dedicated instructors are doing across the country to help the blind.”
Mr Cameron said: “I will look carefully at what my honourable friend says.
“Everyone has noticed the huge amount of improvements that have been made to the way in which streets, traffic lights and pavements are arranged for that purpose. I amhappy to look at what he says and see what more needs to be done.”