‘Drivers would race the lights – it was scary’ - Blind Poulton woman tells how new crossings have transformed her life and given her back her independence
A blind woman who feared the “dangerous” walk to her local shops says new crossings at a busy junction have changed her life.
June McLaughlin, 68, is severely sight impaired and struggled to make the walk from her bungalow near the River Wyre pub, on Breck Road, to Poulton town centre
But upgrades to the junction of Breck Road and Station Road mean she was finally able to complete the walk unaided for the first time earlier this month.
Controlled crossings at all four sets of lights mean she can safely make her way into the town centre without help.
She said: “I can’t tell you how much it’s changed my life. The number of motorists who used to race the lights was frightening.
“I had nothing to go on, other than my own judgement, on when it was safe to cross.
“The very first time I tried on my own a driver came through on red when I was already crossing.
“It really scared me – I lost a lot of confidence. I wouldn’t go on my own after that.”
She lobbied her local councillor, Alf Clempson, for the change – as well as white lines to prevent cars parking across the entrance to footpaths near the River Wyre Hotel.
“We got the white lines first,” she recalled. “But I didn’t hold out much hope for controlled crossings until my husband told me roadworks were going on.”
The crossings went up just before Christmas and June was full of praise for Coun Clempson’s determination to make the junction safer.
The upgrade was made possible using cash secured from developers working on major projects in the area.
Coun Clempson said: “I’ve wanted this for years. I seized the opportunity to make it happen as a condition of new development.
“The controlled crossings make a big difference. It was the right thing to do, the right time to do it.”
The move follows the opening of Lockwood GP surgery at Wyre Civic Centre and Crocus Court Retirement Living on Station Road – as well as proposed new flats on the site where the historic Royal Oak pub stood until demolished after becoming derelict.
White lines marking the beginning and end of footpaths near the River Wyre Hotel have also made a big difference fro June, who catches buses nearby.
She said: “Parked cars used to block the start of paths so I’d either have to walk between closely parked cars –dangerous – or on the grass which could be muddy and slippery when wet.”
Former serviceman Coun Clempson, who already supports Blind Veterans UK, said he hopes to catch up with June at the monthly café club, run by local sight loss support charity N-Vision, at Poulton’s Booths – to which she can now walk.
He said: “I am very touched to learn Mrs McLaughlin is so pleased.
“A lot of motorists use Poulton as a cut-through and complain about roadworks or delays, but I’m more interested in making the town safer and more accessible for those who live here.”
June, who volunteers at N-Vision, was born with optic atrophy, an irreversible condition that wastes away optic nerve fibres which relay impulses from eye to brain.
She is down to five to 10 per cent sight and can’t see colours. Her central vision is blurred and she struggles with peripheral vision.
Although she can’t see the LED countdown on the new crossings, showing when the lights will change, she is delighted they have been installed for people with hearing difficulties.
“They thought of everything,” she said.
June and husband Phillip moved from Basingstoke to their Poulton bungalow more than four years ago and June set her heart on walking into the town centre.
She said: “I wanted to keep fit, walk more and give my husband a break from driving me around, but I found Breck Road was a nightmare.”
She got support from N-Vision after relocating to the Fylde coast and was advised to learn to use a long cane while she still had some sight left.
“I’d resisted a long cane because I saw it as a stigma,” she explained. “I was wrong.”
The cane became her greatest ally in her steps towards personal freedom.
June has since caught trains alone, uses buses and trams routinely, braves shared space, escalators, and strides out in confidence.
She volunteers at several of N-Vision’s monthly café clubs across Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre.
June said: “When I was first registered blind, I cried. I didn’t like labels.
“I can’t see well – I can’t change that. And it’s getting worse.
“But there’s so much I can do. And now that includes finally being able to cross Breck Road safely and walk into the town centre.
“That’s a real milestone for me.”