Health warning: please do not read on if you are easily offended, the following post discusses cyclists, silent cars and shared spaces and although I will try to not be too one-sided these are all my own thoughts and opinions.

Before I say what I really think I will explain for those of you who haven’t read my blog before – where have you been?  I am blind and when I am traveling to keep me safe I use a white cane; its purpose is to help me to avoid obstacles and to alert people who are walking, riding or driving towards me, that they may need to allow me more time to cross a road, slightly more space for me to pass them or because I won’t see them they may have to move out of my way to avoid a head on collision.

I know not all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are not risk takers who risk life and limb to overtake, run across a road or cut corners at junctions but those of you who do, the highway code and the lessons you learnt when you were a child (Stop, look and listen) should always be adhered to, no matter how late you are or how you are traveling.  Even I must take note of my own advice.

Why is it that some cyclists know that the traffic lights have gone green for pedestrians, but they still carry on as though nobody is crossing the road?  I have crossed roads and before I know it,  whiz I hear a bike flit past me, this frightens me as it would anybody whether you have sight or not, I worry that if they do this will I catch my cane in their wheels as it passes me and send them flying or hurt myself or others around me.  I also don’t understand why Basset Avenue, which is outside my place of work is a joint path for pedestrians and cyclists.  How I haven’t been hit yet while leaving work or waiting for my bus home I don’t know.  When I am stood at the bus stop and because of the noise of the traffic passing me I do not hear bikes as they are virtually silent.  On the occasion that somebody bothers to use a bell, then I may hear it and if it’s not a windy day I might feel a breath of air as they speed past me, but other than that I have no chance.  Is there no law about cyclists warning others of their approach or a speed limit when they are using shared spaces?

When someone says to me the words silent car, I don’t think of how much better off the environment will be, I actually think how am I going to know that when I am waiting to cross the road that it is not clear; I know traffic lights will either beep or underneath the button there should be a cone, that spins to tell me that I can go but what about if I am crossing side streets?  How will I know that a silent monster is driving towards me?

I have had an incident in the past where I have been crossing a side street in Winchester; the noise from the traffic on the main road to my right was so loud that I didn’t hear a car that wasn’t a silent car try to pull out.  I honestly thought the road was clear so walked across and bam, my cane was struck.  I wasn’t directly hit, but it could have so easily been a different story.  I know that cars need to be eco-friendlier and I am all for trying to do my bit for the planet, but we can’t have vehicles that don’t make any sound at all.  It isn’t just people with sight loss who need to hear traffic around them.

Shared spaces in towns and cities have unintended consequences.  The issues that people who have sight loss have with this is knowing where the pedestrian area ends, and the road starts.  I struggle with my white cane to distinguish the difference.  I agree that everybody needs to have the same access but why remove curbs that give me a defined edge.  The stress and the worry that I will wander into the road doesn’t make me a happy bunny!

My last thoughts are that cyclists should pay tax, insurance, and sit a theory and an equivalent to a driving test.  I believe that this would make everyone safer.  If silent vehicles have sound beacons up to the speed of about 20 mph I think I’d be able to feel safer when crossing roads.

My suggestion – why don’t street planners put in a change of surface and colour for everyone to know where they can travel safely?

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