Shared Space – would it work in Los Angeles?

(Commissioned, but not used – and worse not paid for – by The Los Angeles Times. So published here free of charge on the slightly-smaller-circulation Adams’ Blog)

There is a growing enthusiasm amongst European transport planners for “shared space”. It is an intriguing idea pioneered by Hans Monderman, a highway engineer in Friesland. He removed almost all the traffic lights, pedestrian barriers, stop signs and other road markings that had been assumed to be essential for the safe movement of traffic.

For traditional highway engineers his idea was anathema. Since the advent of the car they have planned on the assumption that car drivers are selfish, stupid, obedient automatons who had to be protected from their own stupidity, and that pedestrians and cyclists were vulnerable, stupid, obedient automatons who had to be protected from cars – and their own stupidity…
Full article here [PDF]

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  1. Julia Nottelmann says:

    Dear sirs
    I write a bachelortheses about shared space in Hamburg Germany.
    Ich find the articel about shared space interesting, but i cant find it in the la times. Would you please send me a link where i can see the date of publishing and the name of the article in th la times?
    This would be a big help!
    Dank you

  2. graham smith says:

    Perhaps no surprise the LA Times didn’t want it. You are talking about ideas, clearly dangerous ones; almost certainly they wanted a description which might be amusing if the situation can be seen as mad.

  3. Jeremy Parker says:

    To a certain extent Los Angeles already has the shared space concept.

    The older parts of the city at least, at “surface level streets” level, are typical American grid layouts, which results in plenty of intersections. Back east all such intersections would have right of way defined by stop signs. California, though, is different. Minor intersections are “uncontrolled intersections”, and like the typical continental European city, which has the same system, they operate with “give way to the right”

    California is also famous for having motorists who actually observe pedestrians’ right of way. The pavement to pavement crossing at an uncontrolled intersection would, I am pretty sure, count as an “unmarked pedestrian crossing”, like the crossing across the entrance to a side street, where motorists must stop, and do, for pedestrians.

    All this is not as random, I grant, as you portray a “naked street”. However, I would bet that the naked streets aren’t truly random either. I imagine cars would always pass each other on the “proper” side, for example.

    I remember traces of nakedness in Britain, too, when the Ministry of Transport insisted that there were no right-of-way rules at roundabouts, and pedestrians had right of way crossing the streets anywhere, not just at pedestrian crossings.

    Some of Amreican civilized behaviour is helped not by the absence of rules, but rather their presence. Although the USA doesn’t have a default 20 mph urban speed limit, it doesn’t have a 30 mph limit either. The limit is halfway in between, at 25 mph. Near schools, when the yellow lights are flashing, the limit is 15 mph, and when a school bus is flashing its red lights the limit is zero.

    Jeremy Parker

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