Shared surfaces in town centres:
Advice on getting involved in the development of your local
This briefing booklet has been created by Guide Dogs for anyone who is
concerned about the development of shared surfaces in their local area,
and wants to take action.
The issues, and our concerns
For blind and partially-sighted people, finding their way around town centres
safely and confidently depends on „cues‟ that let them know where they are –
like kerbs, audible pedestrian crossings and tactile paving. If these cues are
removed, visually-impaired people and guide dogs can easily become
disorientated, and find themselves in potentially perilous situations.
Guide Dogs is concerned that this is happening across the UK, as a popular
new street design concept called „Shared Space‟ is being rolled out without
proper consideration for all users‟ needs.
We recognise that Shared Space schemes can create environments that
would benefit visually-impaired people. Our key concern is with those
schemes that involve the use of shared surfaces – where the „cues‟ are
removed, and pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles share the same surface.
Guide Dogs is campaigning to raise awareness of the potential problems that
shared surfaces pose, and to ensure that local authorities consult blind and
partially-sighted and other disabled people when planning and redeveloping
Guide Dogs‟ research project:
Report on the findings of focus groups
In September 2006, we published a report on the findings of 10 focus groups
that were held on the subject of shared surface designs in UK towns and
The report is available to download at
www.guidedogs.org.uk/sharedsurfaces. Alternative formats (Braille, large
print, plain text, audio tape and CD) are available on request from Gill Kenyon
at Guide Dogs – call 0118 983 8359 or email
The findings show that blind and partially-sighted people who live in towns
and cities with shared surfaces are reporting serious risks to their safety, with
parts of some towns having become „no-go‟ areas.
Blind and partially-sighted people, and disabled people with other
impairments, highlighted experiences including:
nearly stepping out in front of a bus;
getting knocked over by cyclists;
being intimidated by traffic passing close by; and
finding it extremely difficult to cross carriageways safely.
Concerns of disabled people with regard to shared surfaces included the lack
of a „safe‟ area away from traffic; difficulty distinguishing between areas where
vehicles are permitted and areas that are pedestrian access only; and
difficulties in getting out of the path of oncoming traffic.
Guide Dogs‟ research project:
Finding a solution for all
Guide Dogs is now looking at possible inclusive design solutions for Shared
Space town centres – for example, potential ways of delineating between
pedestrian and vehicular areas. We plan to test those proposed designs with
disabled people in 2007.
We are also continuing to raise awareness of the issues surrounding shared
surfaces with central and local government, and professional bodies.
Lack of effective local authority consultation is highlighted as a major concern
in Guide Dogs‟ report of the focus groups that were held. We have developed
this briefing booklet to help groups and individuals engage effectively with
their local authorities.
Local authorities‟ duties and responsibilities
Promoting equality for disabled people
Our research shows that local authorities are not effectively considering
current government policy messages on inclusive design, social inclusion and
meaningful community involvement when they implement shared surface
Furthermore, the creation of shared surface areas in town centres – where the
safety of blind and partially-sighted people is at risk, and where many now feel
too afraid to go – is not, in our view, in keeping with the Disability Discrimination
Act, and the duty that requires public bodies to promote equality for disabled
people (the Disability Equality Duty).
Local authorities have a duty to promote disability equality, and as a matter of
best practice they should also follow guidelines on inclusive design. Key good
practice guidance documents on inclusive design include:
“Inclusive Projects” (Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee,
2003) which stresses the need to commit to and integrate inclusive
design principles when planning and implementing projects.
“Planning and Access for Disabled People” (Office of the Deputy
Prime Minister, 2003) which defines an inclusive environment as one
that can be used by everyone regardless of age, gender or disability.
“Inclusive Mobility: A Guide to Best Practice on Access to
Pedestrian and Transport Infrastructure” (Department for Transport,
2002) which is a guide to best practice on access to the pedestrian
environment and public transport infrastructure. This document
represents the minimum standards that local authorities should be
working to. They are not mandatory standards, but local authorities
should be strongly encouraged to adopt them.
“Guidance on the Use of Tactile Paving Surfaces” (Department for
“The Principles of Inclusive Design” (Commission for Architecture
and the Built Environment (CABE), 2006). This guide sets out the
principles of inclusive design to create places that everyone can use.
“Planning, buildings, streets and disability equality” (Disability
Rights Commission, 2006). A guide to the Disability Equality Duty and
Disability Discrimination Act 2005 for local authority departments
responsible for planning, design and management of the built
environment and streets.
“Guidance for Disabled People” (Disability Rights Commission, 2006).
The Disability Rights Commission has produced guidance for disabled
people on the Disability Equality Duty to encourage disabled people to
participate. The document explains how disabled people and their
organisations can expect to be involved and what they can do to help
public authorities achieve effective involvement.
Local authorities are required to undertake a risk assessment (quality and
safety audit) before implementing new streetscape designs. It should be
confirmed by local authorities that this will include assessment of the
implications for blind and partially-sighted people and other disabled people.
Who to contact at local level?
If you are finding it very difficult or impossible to travel safely in an existing
shared surface scheme in your neighbourhood, or you are concerned about a
proposed scheme, then we suggest you get in touch with one or all of the
the Chair of the Planning Committee of your local authority (contact
details should be available on your local authority website, in your local
telephone directory or at your local library);
your local ward councillor and your Member of Parliament (MP) – their
contact details should be in your local telephone directory or available at
your local library. A list of MPs can be found at
your local authority access officer, and rehabilitation worker for blind
and partially-sighted people (their contact details should be available on
your local authority website, in your local telephone directory or at your
your nearest local access group and/or your local society of blind
and partially-sighted people (contact details should be in your local
telephone directory, at your local library or at your nearest Citizens
Setting out your specific concerns
We would advise you to set out your specific concerns relating to the shared
surface scheme, and suggest aspects of design that local authorities need to
consider. When Guide Dogs‟ research into Shared Space design solutions is
complete, new ways of making town centres inclusive for all may come to
light. Meanwhile, we recommend you suggest the following:
retention (or reinstatement) of a footway with a kerb, regular dropped
kerbs for wheelchair users, and properly laid tactile paving;
consistency in design and layout of tactile paving;
retention (or reinstatement) of signal controlled crossings;
retention or provision of guardrails to afford protection to vulnerable
pedestrians, for example, at locations where people could inadvertently
walk into the carriageway.
If a local authority proposes to use a different form of separation between the
footway and the carriageway (or shared area) other than the recognised kerb
or tactile paving, it should be prepared to carry out research before
implementation to clearly demonstrate that its design solutions are suitable
What to mention, and what questions to ask
We recommend that you refer to the Disability Discrimination Act, in particular
the Local Authority Disability Equality Duty, and to the good practice guidance
documents described above. We also suggest that you mention the research
carried out by Guide Dogs; “Shared Surface Street Design Research Project –
The Issues: Report of Focus Groups”.
Newbury town centre. A wheelchair user is in the centre of
the shared surface. A young cyclist passes close by.
In terms of the consultation process, we suggest that you raise the following
The consultation framework – how have local authorities involved blind and
partially-sighted people and other disabled people in drawing up their proposals,
and how do they intend to involve them at each stage?
The local authority should give consideration to establishing an access
focus group, with representation from local disability organisations and
In terms of the Shared Space scheme itself:
Will motorists and pedestrians share the same surface?
Will cyclists and pedestrians share the same routes?
Will the scheme retain the pavements and/or kerbs?
Will there be clear demarcation between the footway and carriageway?
Will tactile paving be included in line with the Department for Transport‟s
“Guidance on the use of tactile paving surfaces”?
Will there be signal controlled pedestrian crossings with dropped kerbs
and the recommended tactile paving, and both audible and tactile
Will there be raised tables at crossings with tactile paving as
recommended in the Department for Transport‟s “Guidance on the use
of tactile paving surfaces” (section 22.214.171.124)? If no tactile paving is
proposed, what features would be included to alert blind and partially-
sighted people to the crossing?
What kind of street furniture is to be included? Will it contrast against its
surroundings, and how will it be arranged? (See section 3.7 (street
furniture) of “Inclusive Mobility: A Guide to Best Practice on Access to
Pedestrian and Transport Infrastructure” (Department for Transport,
What type of lighting will be included (e.g. uplighters, or downlighters),
and will there be adequate lighting on the ground for safe navigation at
Will the signage be uniform and of the recommended standard (British
Standard BS8300 on signage – section 9.2.3; JMU Access Partnership
and the Sign Design Society “Sign Design Guide”, 2000)?
Will audible and visual signs be provided?
What type of navigation features will be included, and will the
surrounding furniture and buildings diminish their visibility?
How will the scheme as a whole incorporate appropriate colour and tonal
How will the development be monitored after completion? Will a safety
audit clearly include the effect it has on blind and partially-sighted
Will the scheme be implemented in stages? If so, how will each stage be
monitored in order to incorporate lessons learned in future stages?
Overall, will the proposed development make the street/area easier or
more difficult for blind and partially-sighted people and other disabled
people to use? How does this fit with the Disability Equality Duty?
The information and guidance contained in this briefing booklet is intended to
be sufficiently comprehensive to enable you to get involved at your local level.
However, if you require further information please contact Gill Kenyon at
Guide Dogs on 0118 983 8359; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guide Dogs would also like to hear about any examples of good practice in
street designs that you have come across, so that we can evaluate these as
part of our research on fully accessible streetscape designs. If you would like
to share good practice in street development with us, including examples of
good practice in the local consultation process, please email
email@example.com or call Gill Kenyon on 0118 983 8359.
Access and Inclusion Manager
The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association
Dundee city centre. The lack of a kerb makes it difficult for blind
and partially-sighted people to get into position to cross the carriageway.
Copies of the good practice guidance documents referred to
in this booklet can be obtained from:
Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC)
Tel: 020 7944 8011, Textphone: 020 7944 3277, Fax: 020 7944 6998
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.dptac.gov.uk
Department for Transport
Tel: 020 7944 8300, Fax: 020 7944 9643, Website: www.dft.org.uk
Disability Rights Commission
Tel: 08457 622 633, Textphone: 08457 622 644, Fax: 08457 778 878
Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE)
Tel: 020 7070 6700, Fax: 020 7070 6777, Website: www.cabe.org.uk
Registered Office: The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association,
Hillfields, Burghfield Common, Reading RG7 3YG
Registered Charity No. 209617. Registered Company No. 291646.
Tel: 0118 983 5555 Fax: 0118 983 5433 Website: www.guidedogs.org.uk