Opinion Former Article

Guide Dogs: A load of rubbish? Or a fine idea to tidy up the streets of Bedford?

It was interesting to read this week about the plans of Bedford Council to fine residents up to £1000 for failing to remove their wheelie bins from the street after collection. One local resident said "It’s an absolute waste of council money and time to have people walking the streets checking if someone has put their bins away.". But is it?

When Guide Dogs asked 100 guide dog owners to name the biggest obstacles they face on a daily basis, wheelie bins were the third most common answer, with 58% of people asked viewing them as a problem. The top two offenders? Overhanging branches (87%) and cars parked on pavements (81%).

Trips and falls also cost councils a lot of money. Between 2001 and 2007, Bedford Council paid out £158,339 to people injured tripping up on pavements. If threatening to fine people reduces the amount of street clutter, it follows that the number of trips and falls (and resulting compensation claims) will decrease. This will mean Bedford Council have more money to spend on essential services.

Guide Dogs agree that fining residents should be a last resort, yet it is clear that not all people instinctively consider the needs of others. Blind and partially sighted people should have the same freedom to get around as anyone else. Bins left in the street, overhanging branches, poor parking...all of these risk causing serious injury to blind and partially sighted people. If people are too lazy to move a bin which has been helpfully fitted with wheels, why should they not be fined if that helps ensure the safety of others?

For more information please contact James White, Campaigns Officer, Guide Dogs, james.white@guidedogs.org.uk

More Articles by Guide Dogs for the Blind Association ...

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