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16 March, 2018

Share bikes ongoing access hazard for people with sight loss

Donna Purcell walking with her Guide Dog in the city past a Share Bike

Share bikes are an ongoing access hazard for people with vision impairment warns Guide Dogs NSW/ACT, despite recent moves by some Sydney councils to impound abandoned and broken bikes.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is urging share bike and other bike riders, including those on scooters and motorbikes, to be more thoughtful about where they park or leave bikes.

Jennifer Moon, Community Education and Access Advisor at Guide Dogs NSW/ACT says the sudden influx of share bikes across Sydney has exacerbated an already existing issue, and that bikes don’t need to be dumped in the middle of a footpath to create a problem for people with vision impairment, including Guide Dog handlers, people using white canes and people with low vision.

“Many people don’t realise that leaving a bike propped up against a traffic pole, where they may consider it out of the way, can create issues for people with vision impairment. Guide Dogs are trained to guide their handler to traffic poles to be in position to safely cross the road. The added obstacle of a bike leaning on a pole can distract and confuse even the most experienced of Guide Dogs,” Jennifer said.

“Also, a person using a long cane will not know that a bike is in their path of travel until the cane hits it. Then where do they go, where is the safe path, especially when trying to cross a road?” Jennifer added.

Sydney-based Guide Dog handler, Donna Purcell experienced this issue first-hand while training with her new Guide Dog, Dora in the Sydney CBD in recent weeks.

“Bikes leaning against traffic poles caused constant issues when I was training my work route with Dora in the city, and my Guide Dog Mobility Instructor had to remove a bike from a pole so I could press the traffic button. On a separate occasion, I tripped on bikes parked on the footpath,” Donna said.

“I think it’s great that some Sydney councils are taking the initiative to remove stray and broken bikes. But I’m worried that some share bike users might become even more careless about where they leave bikes, knowing that council rangers may move the bikes for them. I’ve even come across a bike dumped all the way up in Mount Ku-ring-gai,” Donna added.

TOP TIPS from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT for bike riders:

  • Park your bike off the path of travel.
  • Don’t lean your bike against buildings as people with vision impairment use this wall to assist with straight line navigation.
  • Don’t leave your bike against traffic light poles. Pressing the audible tactile signal helps people with vision impairment cross the road. The kerb ramp needs to be clear so that people can enter and exit the road quickly and safely.
  • Don’t leave your bike parked on corners. This is especially hazardous for people with vision impairment as they turn a corner on a footpath.
  • Enjoy your bike riding, but when you park your bike, be mindful not to create hazards for people using the footpath, especially people who can’t see the bike.

Guide Dogs NSW/ACT advocates on behalf of people with impaired vision to ensure the community is a safe, accessible and easy place in which to live and work.

Every day 28 Australians are diagnosed with sight loss that cannot be corrected, including nine who will become blind.