'Fewer injuries' in Ashford shared space road scheme

An area of the shared space
Image caption Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers have equal priority on the streets of Ashford

A scheme where pedestrians and car users share the same space has resulted in fewer accidents, according to Kent County Council (KCC).

The scheme, which turned Ashford's ring road into streets where drivers and pedestrians have equal priority, has been in place since November 2008.

Figures released by the authority show there has been a 41% drop in accidents in which people have been injured.

Critics have argued the scheme is dangerous to blind people.

Under the scheme, signs, traffic lights and pavements were removed.

According to KCC, between January 2004 and December 2006 there were 61 collisions involving injuries.

This figure dropped to 36 between December 2008 and November 2011.

'Certainly safer'

The architect behind the scheme, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, said: "The worst fears that the accident rate would increase have not been born out by the figures.

"It's certainly safer - the difficulty with any scheme like this is that it increases the slight sense of risk and discomfort in order to achieve that safety.

"So people inevitably have some hesitation and nervousness about mixing with traffic as it relies on establishing a relationship at low speeds, which makes it possible to cross the road."

In December a study published by the University of West England, said that pedestrians have been avoiding crossing in the shared area.

David Cowdrey, from Guide Dogs for the Blind, said the scheme was a danger to visually impaired people.

He said: "It discriminates against blind and partially sighted people very clearly in the fact that if you are using the space properly you can't actually tell if you're on the pavement or the road.

"The idea of using this space is that you watch what other people are doing and it is almost like being on an ice-skating rink - you avoid each other.

"But if you can't see, you can't avoid, and it really does create huge problems for mobility."

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