Fears of accidents for blind in town revamp

FELIXSTOWE: Campaigners who work with blind and visually-impaired people are worried the town’s pedestrianisation compromise will cause huge hazards for people with visual problems.

The �2.8million scheme in Hamilton Road will be a “shared space” for pedestrians and cars – with people on foot having right of way.

Design of the project means there will be no kerbs and one level paved surface with markings to show where cars should drive and black bays for parking.

“If you are blind or visually-impaired it will be an absolute nightmare,” said Norman Thompson, of the Felixstowe group of East Suffolk Association for the Blind (ESAB).

“I think it will be very dangerous indeed. People with sight problems rely on kerbs to define the road and pavement and points where they should cross.

“Add into this quiet, modern cars moving down the road and it is a recipe for disaster.

“They could step straight into the path of a vehicle. I think it is a very sad state of affairs.

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“These schemes have not enjoyed widespread use or success and I believe it would have been better to have simply closed off the main shopping stretch of Hamilton Road and said no cars, a proper pedestrian area, and made it perfectly safe.”

Mr Thompson, a former chairman of ESAB’s board of trustees, said he had already heard of problems training guide dogs in the new area between Boots and Bank Corner, with the dogs confused by the lack of kerbs and how to get their owner across the street.

A county council spokeswoman said Optua and Gude Dogs had been consulted during the scheme’s design and their suggestions taken on board.

The scheme has a wide “safe zone” walking area at the sides with no obstructions, a tactile ridge to give guidance as to where this ends, a 20mph speed limit and courtesy crossings at the ends.

Highways officials believe the scheme will cut traffic dramatically in the newly-paved area with junction changes, traffic calming, and no parking – except for a handful of spaces for disabled blue badge areas – discouraging people from driving through the area.


n Will the new shared space scheme be safer for pedestrians? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk