Concerns for blind people using new Eastbourne town centre layout

Our article sent to the Herald:

Concerns have been raised for blind and visually impaired people in Eastbourne town centre.

Eastbourne Access Group says one busy crossing at the traffic lights between the station and Beacon shopping centre could be difficult for people to use.

This is down to the mid point not having what’s known as tactile, or bumpy, paving to let people know it is a safe place to stop.

A spokesperson for Eastbourne Access Group said, “As the town centre is brand new we thought it would be an exemplar of safety.

Major new plans to pedestrianise Eastbourne town centre revealed

“The mid way point / refuge/ island has no tactile paving to indicate to a visually impaired person (VIP) they have reached a safe mid point in their crossing.

“Without tactile paving they just keep on walking without knowing there is a pedestrian island. Traditional pedestrian islands are well protected and have tactile paving at entry and exit points.”

They continued, “VIPs can also be confused by the fact that the built section of the traffic island are in the same brick and pattern of the road. Alongside which the upstanding is really low compared to normal kerbs which presents a trip hazard.

“We hope the [county council] acknowledges and acts on our concerns, carries out a full pedestrian safety audit, and modifies the road layout appropriately at these sites.”

Responding to these concerns, a spokesperson for East Sussex County Council (ESCC) said the new town centre improvement scheme conforms to national guidelines on road safety and accessibility.

They said, “We met with the Eastbourne Access Group last month, have taken on board their comments about the first phase of the scheme, and talked them through the proposals for phase two, which we’re consulting on at the moment.

“Once phase one is complete, we will be carrying out safety and accessibility audits of the scheme and as part of this will look at whether any additional measures need to be put in place.”

This comes after cyclists criticised the scheme for not being bike-friendly.