Friday, May 29, 2009

Shared space - From Living Streets

“Shared space”: whereby road signs and segregation are minimised

The concept of shared space places importance on how drivers make decisions about their behavior. A shared space can be one in which motor traffic is not physically separated from people or cyclists, and there is an absence, or severe reduction of, traffic signals, signs, road markings, humps and barriers.

When no user has obvious priority, all users look out for each other. Shared space means drivers are forced to pay more attention to their surroundings by looking out for pedestrians and cyclists. It encourages drivers to make eye contact and interact with pedestrians, rather than assuming they have right of way and ignoring life going on around them. It may sound counter-intuitive, but trial schemes have reduced pedestrian casualties by nearly half. Thorough consultation with all user-groups is essential to ensure that schemes meet the needs of everybody.

Background

• Raised pavements have existed since before the Roman times, but only became common in towns and cities in the 19th century. As motor traffic and speed increased it became more common to separate pedestrians and motorcars;

• The use of traffic lights, guard railing and road signs have increased, all of which make drivers respond automatically without regard to the world around them. Pedestrians can be viewed as inconvenient barriers to smooth traffic flow, even in streets whose primary function is for shopping, or living in;

• Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman observed that traffic efficiency and safety of urban streets improved when redesigned to encourage people to negotiate their movements with others;

• Shared space is used widely in some parts of the Netherlands and Germany, and is becoming more common in the UK with schemes in Southampton, Brighton, Kensington and Ashford.

Benefits

• A pedestrian-friendly environment, with reduced traffic speeds and railing allowing freedom of movement;

• Motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are compelled to engage with each other;

• Schemes have huge potential to reduce the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured on our roads. The redesign of Kensington High Street in London, which incorporated shared space concepts, resulted in the number of casualties being reduced by 47%;

• Reduction in traffic congestion: A proposed shared space plan for Exhibition Road in London is expected to reduce the amount of traffic by 30%.

Further Reading
* European shared space project site: http://www.shared-space.org/
* video demonstrating shared space in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLfasxqhBNU
* UK’s Manual for Streets town planning guidance: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/manforstreets/pdfmanforstreets.pdf

Rob Cann, Policy Coordinator, robert.cann@livingstreets.org.uk
Living Streets, http://www.livingstreets.org.uk
London, UK

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