Presentation for PRIAN Public Realm Course, Bedford, 28 April 2008.
Traditional highway engineering assumes that safety requires the spatial segregation of pedestrians, cyclists and motorized vehicles or, where this is not possible, rigorously enforced rules, signs and signals dictating temporal segregation. Road users, according to the established paradigm, are irresponsible, stupid, selfish automatons whose safety can only be assured by physical barriers to conflict, supplemented by legal sanctions for disobeying the rules.
“Shared space” stands many of the traditional assumptions on their heads. It assumes a very different road user – one who is responsible, alert and responsive to evidence of safety or danger. It proposes tearing down physical barriers such as pedestrian guard rails and segregation infrastructure as pedestrian bridges, and filling in pedestrian tunnels. It also proposes removing stop signs and traffic lights and other signage and road markings demanding compliance at the cost of criminal or financial sanctions. It deliberately creates uncertainty as to who has the right of way on the assumption that road users will work it out for themselves in a civilized fashion.
The idea is attracting growing numbers of adherents – if one types “shared space” into Google one is rewarded with 100s of 1000s of hits. It has its own website - http://www.shared-space.org/ – and a useful Wikipedia entry – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space. Two English websites that have been prominent in the promotion of the idea are: http://www.hamilton-baillie.co.uk/ and http://www.publicrealm.info/
In the streets where it has been implemented it has, thus far, improved appearance, enhanced conviviality and not increased accidents – and frequently reduced them.
But clearly it is not appropriate everywhere. A counter example frequently cited by sceptics and opponents are the high road traffic accident rates in third world countries who enjoy “natural” shared space – i.e. countries which have yet to get round to installing conventional segregation and signage.
The next four slides present examples of places and circumstances in which the idea works well.
For the PowerPoint Notes version of full presentation click here
I have yet to master hyperlinks. Those wishing to view the video clip of shared space on the Archway Road (slide 6) please copy and paste this link – http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=shared+space+archway&search_type=
And those wishing to view the clip of shared space somewhere in India (slide eight) please copy and paste this link - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjrEQaG5jPM