Love them or hate them, advertising boards continue to be used by retailers up and down the land. A-boards, as they are commonly known, are seen as a boon to retailers. Many times, however, the boards are a bane to pedestrians and wheelchair users. They are a major source of irritation between shopkeepers and the general public.
A Boards in Kendal
One town has taken steps to address this contentious issue. Kendal, a beautiful and picturesque market town that is popular with day trippers and other visitors to the Lake District, is set to undertake a 12-month experiment that could satisfy retailers and footpath users alike.
According to a news report in The Westmorland Gazette, dozens of members of the retail community met with representatives from Kendal Town Council, Cumbria Highways and South Lakeland District Council. The retailers agreed to self-regulate their use of A-boards for a trial period of 12 calendar months, beginning February 2013. If successful, the code will be adopted district-wide on a permanent basis.
The meetings and subsequent code of conduct came after a year-long battle over A-boards. South Lakeland District Council targetted the prolific use of A-boards, and incurred the ire of local businesses. More than 120 shopkeepers received warning letters and the prospect of fines or prosecution if A-boards were not removed.
There are advantages and disadvantages to using A Frames, and it is not surprising that both sides fought their respective corners before agreeing on the code of conduct.
The Case for A-Boards
Advertising boards are a source of direct advertising that easily catches the attention of passersby and motorists. They serve a number of purposes:
– In the case of Kendal, visitors unused to the area can readily find places to eat and/or shop. The town is a tourist magnet: Places of interest include castles, museums, an art gallery and an arts centre.
– In the current distressed economic climate, the A-boards help to generate business by advertising special offers, attracting passing trade and increasing competition between businesses.
– Local businesses are the lifeblood of any town centre or high street, and increased local trade helps to keep high streets — and towns — vibrant and prosperous. This benefits traders and local residents. Many small businesses are facing particularly dire times — and must advertise to survive.
On the other hand, the needs and benefits of businesses must be balanced with the safety and wellbeing of pavement users, especially the disabled. Additionally, the beauty and charm of a town such as Kendal has to be conserved so that tourists will want to keep visiting the town.
The Case for Footpath Users
– Placing A-boards on the pavements create potential hazards for people pushing children in prams and pushchairs.
– Wheelchair users may find it difficult to maneuver around A-boards.
– Pedestrians with Zimmer frames could be forced to step into the road to circumvent A-boards, putting them in danger of vehicular traffic.
– A-boards could be an impediment to blind people using canes or guide dogs. They, too, could be forced onto busy roads in areas where pavements are narrow. Kendal has busy roads that are heavily used by cars, lorries, buses and coaches, so A-boards should be used with due care and caution.
Not all of the residents of Kendal are hopeful about the A-board code of conduct. One man, registered as blind, dismisses the need for it — which he says is the third time that the local council has issued guidelines on the use of A-Boards on public footpaths. He thinks the situation is dire for the blind, and that the problem could be easily solved if businesses follow the guidelines laid out by the Department of Transport.
The Department of Transport provides guidelines on street safety for disabled people. A document, entitled “Inclusive Mobility – A Guide to Best Practice on access to Pedestrian and Transport Infrastructure”, adequately covers the placement of A boards on public rights-of-way.
It could be argued that, if the DoT’s guidelines are properly followed, the need for a code of conduct — voluntary or otherwise — would be eliminated. The issue in Kendal, however, goes deeper than inclusive mobility. The voluntary code of conduct could be the answer in Kendal’s case.
Assigns: Traditional A Board