A recent BBC radio 4 programme entitled Thinking Streets takes listeners on a refreshing tour of traffic management schemes that are elevating the status of pedestrians and cyclists relative to that of those in motor vehicles. The effect, as researcher/presenter, Angela Saini notes, is civilizing – while also reducing accidents. The programme features Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who it rightly describes as Britain’s “biggest advocate of shared space”. He is also a very convincing advocate with a website worth visiting. I have a brief part in the programme explaining the concept of risk compensation.
In Where and when is shared space safe? (PDF) I introduce the concept of shared space as follows:
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 such 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.
Download “Where and when is shared space safe?” (PDF)