Blind pedestrians tell of Prom fears

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BLIND residents have spoken of their fears over heading out on to Blackpool’s new-look Promenade alone.

Guide dog users claim they have been left terrified and their animals confused, while “long cane” users have been unable to distinguish between road and pavement at the new scheme.

The new work on the Promenade has proved difficult for partially sighted and blind people. Pictured is Fred Lindley, Judith Harrison, Paul Barnett and Jean Hancock with dog Yinka.

The new work on the Promenade has proved difficult for partially sighted and blind people. Pictured is Fred Lindley, Judith Harrison, Paul Barnett and Jean Hancock with dog Yinka.

The Promenade’s “shared-surface” design – with cars and pedestrians using the same space – has prompted a raft of criticism since it opened earlier this month.

Carole Holmes, from Balham Avenue, South Shore, said she was “disappointed” she would not be able to walk with her guide dog Ike along the stretch in her own home town.

The 64-year-old said: “I can’t walk the dog because there are no kerbs, so my dog doesn’t know to stop. I can walk along the Promenade in Morecambe and Bournemouth totally safely but this is my town and I can’t walk along on my own safely.”

Instead of traditional kerbs, the road and pavements are marked out by different colours, including at the busy bus and taxi junctions at Adelaide Street West and Church Street.

The Blind Dog Association’s district team manager for Lancashire Paul Barnett added: “With this surface we would have to get the dog to key into the lighter colour, but if the dog gets it wrong Carole has no way of checking. It’s a real concern. I’m going to have clients relying on third parties to keep them safe.”

The local blind society, N-Vision, were invited on to the Promenade before it opened and highlighted the problems to Blackpool Council, who say residents need to “familiarise” themselves with the new layout.

But one of N-Vision’s long cane users, Johnny Gardener, 53, from Squires Gate Lane, Blackpool, said: “I would have no confidence walking down here on my own because I’m alongside traffic.

“You do rely heavily on your ears and because the traffic is so close to us it does make us quite nervous.

“We’ve had to share pavement with a lot of things and now we have to share it with moving vehicles.”

The council insist the new layout, with two lanes of traffic instead of four, is safe.

John Donnellon, assistant director for transport, said: “I understand the nervousness because it’s a new arrangement. We will run as many familiarisation sessions as people want so they feel comfortable.”