CONTROVERSIAL plans to scrap the pelican crossings at the end of Solihull High Street and Herbert Road as part of the £2.2m Solihull Gateway project have seen an offer of three new zebra crossings to be installed in their place.
The original plan came under massive fire from many quarters – in particular charities for the blind and partially sighted.
The pedestrian zone would see the roads and pavements all at the same level to make the town centre – at the end by the main John lewis entrance – a pedestrian right of way over all traffic.
However, buses and cars would still be using the road, which led to fears about safety for blind and partially sighted users.
In particular, the fear was centred on the ability of Guide Dogs to negotiate the area safely as they are trained to recognise dropped kerbs as a danger and to lead their owners to traffic light-controlled crossings which beep when it is safe to cross.
The Observer led a front page appeal for the plans to be scrapped when they were first announced, backing the calls of the charities.
And it now seems the voice of the people has been heard – at least in part.
Solihull Council still plans to push ahead with the pedestrianisation of the town centre and the removal of the traffic light controlled pelican crossing at the end of the High Street and one at the start of the pedestrian area on Herbert Road.
But it is now planning to install three new uncontrolled ‘courtesy’ crossings at the start of the pedestrian zone.
The proposal has been cautiously welcomed by Terry Smith, Engagement Manager at Guide Dogs for the Blind, who said: “Ideally we would have preferred to retain the pelican crossing but having three pedestrian priority crossings is seen by us and local stakeholders as keeping Solihull inclusive for people with sight loss.”
Coun Ted Richards, Cabinet Member for Transport and Highways, added: “I’d like to thank those representatives of vulnerable road users who have worked with us to design a scheme that will enhance Solihull town centre.
“We have happily made compromises along the way and now have a plan that I am personally proud of.
“Those stakeholders who have engaged with us have had the opportunity to discuss the issues and work constructively together with highways officers to create an inclusive design for a modern and pedestrian-friendly gateway to the town centre.”
The changes will now be included in an amended scheme plan which will be submitted to the Cabinet Member for approval at a decision session on October 23.
This will secure final scheme approval to give the go-ahead for works to begin in the New Year.
For more information on the Solihull Gateway Project, visit www.solihull.gov.uk/solihullgateway.