The end of the road for shared space

Inclusive Transport Strategy

At the end of last month the Department for Transport published the long awaited  Inclusive Transport Strategy (25th July 2018) setting out plans to make the transport system more inclusive and calling for an end to shared space.

An inclusive transport strategy is so important is because enabling equal access to transport means so much more than getting people on trains and buses. It’s about why people want to get on trains and buses, it’s about ensuring disabled people have equal access to jobs, schools, colleges, the freedom to visit friends and family and use their own high street.

Shared Space

Chris is a passionate advocate for improved accessibility and inclusion and has long campaigned on a design idea known as “shared space”.”Shared space” schemes, where features such as kerbs, road surface markings, designated crossing places and traffic signs are removed, have been introduced in many town centres in recent years. The intention was to create better places the reality, sadly, was a terrifying free for all.

Moratorium and Guidance

In 2015 Chris conducted a survey into peoples experiences of shared space finding them to be overwhelmingly negative. Over a third of people reported actively avoid shared space schemes and 63 per cent of respondents rated their experience as poor. Chris is delighted that two of his recommendations from that report have been adopted by the Department for Transport:

  1. an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes and
  2. updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.

Many people, organizations and individuals, have been involved in raising awareness of the problems with shared space over the years. It has been discussed in parliament, the subject of Select Committee scrutiny in both the Lords and Commons and investigated by industry body the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT).  In the CIHT report Creating Better Streets not one of the case studies examined was found to have successfully created a fully inclusive environment.

End of the road….

One of the most well known “shared space” schemes is in Exhibition Road, London, although the recent introduction of bollards to make one half of the open carriageway completely pedestrianized can only be a tacit acceptance that the scheme as originally designed was not working.

Chris calls on local authorities, engineers and designers to engage with the inclusive transport strategy and take seriously the challenge of considering accessibility requirements in planning and infrastructure.

Chris has said:

“this is nothing to do with seeking to freeze the past or frustrate change, it is about looking forward, being innovative, engaging with technology and the smart cities agenda and ensuring that we produce intelligent, inclusive, public spaces that work for all.”

Chris responds to major industry review into shared space

The industry body tasked by the government with conducting a review into controversial shared space street design has today (9 January 2018) published its conclusions and recommendations. The CIHT review considered how shared space is being designed, implemented and installed across England and is based upon eleven detailed case studies. Most striking is that only one of the case studies was found to be ‘positive’ in respect of ‘inclusive environment’ and that was a scheme described as “very much on the limit of what might be called shared space” as it has several controlled crossings and clearly defined footway delineated by a traditional kerb. ‘Creating better streets: Inclusive and accessible places’ provides a series of recommendations to Government and industry that, should they be implemented, should ensure that in future authorities can achieve designs that meet the needs of all their users.

Chris said:

I have campaigned on the issue of shared space for several years and congratulate the CIHT on taking the issue of accessibility and inclusion in the public realm seriously. I am delighted that the recommendations include ensuring that local authorities understand their duties with regard to the Equality Act and also recognise that: greater awareness, better training, more research and improved guidance are all needed.

I’m also delighted that the report concludes – regarding crossings – that “there should be sufficient provision for all users to cross the carriageway safely and in comfort” and – regarding kerbs – that the separation between carriageway and footway “should be clearly delineated and detectable by all”.  It is essential that all our public spaces are safe, inclusive places for us all to enjoy.”

The recommendations include:
– the need for greater awareness to create streets that are inclusive and accessible;
– the development and use of a framework of objectives and outcomes for the basis of street design;
– the need to replace the use of shared space as a concept with different design approaches;
– the need for detailed research into the needs of all users and around specific design features;
– the review of existing guidance and the development of new guidance to assist local authorities in producing better street design;
– and, consideration of amending legislation in certain areas.

Find the full report here