Monday, 21 May 2012

Paving the way for safer streets

Caption: Councillors, police and representatives from the Leeds branch of the National Federation of the Blind, RNIB and Guide Dogs for the Blind gather to re-claim the pavements.

People will be gathering in the city centre to show their support for a new project that aims to keep pavements safe for some of Leeds’ most vulnerable residents.

Lead by local representatives of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), West Yorkshire Police will be working with Leeds City Council to make sure that ‘Pavements are for People’ and kept free of obstructions.

**********Media opportunity**********
Where: Millennium Square, Leeds
When: Wednesday 23 May, 1.15pm
What: Representatives of NFB, RNIB, Guide Dogs for the Blind, West Yorkshire Police and Leeds City Council will gather in Millennium Square to launch the campaign.
Representatives from each organisation will be available for interview.
Please contact Amanda Burns on 0113 395 1577 to confirm attendance.
**********Media opportunity**********

On a daily basis disabled, blind and partially sighted people, along with people pushing prams and buggies, are put at significant risk as they are forced to walk on the road because pavements are blocked.

Common culprits include wheeled bins left out for days after they’ve been emptied – bins should be taken back in the day they are emptied.

People parking their cars on the pavement, incorrectly thinking they’re giving other road users more space or making it more convenient for themselves also cause people with limited mobility or sight significant difficulties.

Council enforcement officers and police officers will be patrolling the streets in south Leeds to remind people that these seemingly innocent actions could actually put vulnerable people in real danger.

Initially enforcement staff will be sending advice letters to residents in Beeston who fail to bring in their bins on the day they’ve been emptied. Police officers will also issue warning notices on the windscreens of vehicles blocking pavements and pathways in the area.

Officers from both organisations will monitor the area and fixed penalty notices will be issued to anyone who persistently fails to heed the advice or warnings.

Victor Jackson, chairperson of the Leeds and District Branch of the NFB said:

“We’re pleased that the police and council are working together to take this approach after we highlighted our concerns.

“Its about time we reclaimed the pavements from the unthinking actions of others. If people had their sight or mobility hampered in some way they would quickly find out just how hard something simple like walking down the street can be.

“We find it frustrating as it doesn’t have to be this way. I’m glad I can add my voice to the rallying call to keep our pavements free and safe for all to use.”

Chief Inspector Steve Palmer from the City and Holbeck Neighbourhood Policing Team said:

“Obstructions along footpaths and highways make life very difficult for people who are blind or partially sighted, those with disabilities or those pushing prams and buggies. People often avoid taking a favored route and make unnecessary detours to visit family or friends and to attend appointments. This may place people at risk and increase the chance of an accident.

“This campaign seeks to raise the public's awareness of people with disabilities and asks for people to act in a responsible way by not leaving obstructions and other hazards on our footpaths and highways.”

Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds City Council’s executive member for the environment said:

"I'm sure that in most cases, people aren't deliberately obstructing pavements. They just haven't thought through the consequences of their actions. Once people realise the potential danger they are causing, I'm confident they’ll take action accordingly. However, for those that ignore our advice and warnings, fines will be issued."

On a recent walk about of a typical Leeds street, a blind person and their guide dog found the pavement and half the road blocked by a builder’s material and gear. They were forced off the pavement and had to walk on the other side of the road in the face of oncoming traffic.

The project will target inconsiderate actions like this, drivers who block pavements and residents who fail to collect their bins by initially offering advice and reminders. Failure to remove obstructions could result in fixed penalty notices being issued.

For media enquiries please contact:
Amanda Burns, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 395 1577