, ,

  David Blunkett today led calls for a proposed cycle superhighway to be redirected away from the headquarters of the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

The former Labour cabinet minister was being joined by fellow blind peers Lord Holmes and Lord Low in supporting a plea from the RNIB for a rethink of the “dangerous” route of the northern section of the North-South superhighway between King’s Cross and Elephant and Castle.

Transport for London wants to take the replacing the traffic lights and pelican crossing near the RNIB offices in Judd Street with a large zebra crossing.

But the RNIB said this would place blind and partially sighted people in danger as cyclists were less likely to stop at a zebra crossing and could not be heard or seen as easily as cars.

It said at least two of its staff had been hit by cyclists who had jumped red lights at nearby Tavistock Place, where a segregated cycle route has been introduced by Camden council. An excerpt from its response to the TfL consultation is below:

RNIB submission to TfL

The RNIB building is visited by thousands of people with vision impairments each year and it employs many blind and partially sighted staff.

The RNIB wants the route redirected onto Cartwright Gardens or Belgrove Street.
Its call for a rethink was supported by the London Cycling Campaign, which suggested keeping the route on Farringdon Road.

Fazilet Hadi, director of engagement at RNIB, said: “Hundreds of people with sight loss come to RNIB each week as staff, volunteers and visitors. We are extremely concerned that the dramatic increase in the number of cyclists, combined with the removal of the pelican crossing, will put many blind and partially sighted people at risk of injury.

“TfL must not assume that all blind people are easily identifiable and that cyclists can spot them in advance. Many people with sight loss do not use a cane or have a guide dog.”

Isabelle Clement, director of the Wheels for Wellbeing cycling charity, said: “I’m shocked the RNIB were not properly consulted over the equality impact assessment. Judd Street needs a solution that works for everyone.”

Ashok Sinha, chief executive of London Cycling Campaign, said: “We want to create a safe environment for all road users, including the visually impaired.”

City Hall sources have previously indicated that the superhighway had to be diverted through Bloomsbury because Farringdon Road narrows near Mount Pleasant. The proposed route through Bloomsbury enables the cycle superhighway to link with the Tavistock Place east-west cycle route.

Nigel Hardy, head of sponsorship at surface transport for TfL, said: “We are currently studying all of the responses received in our consultation on the proposed extension of the North-South Cycle Superhighway, including those from the RNIB. We will assess all feedback on the proposals and publish a consultation report setting our how we propose to proceed later this year.”