Category Archives: Shared Space

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.”

Accidents by Design: The Holmes Report into Shared Space

On Friday 1st July I published detailed research into so called “shared space”.  This is the architectural conceit, the planning folly, which proposes that the removal of kerbs, road markings, controlled crossings such as zebras and pelicans and so on leads to a better experience for all users of our streets.  To be clear this means no road or pavement, no safe space, buses and blind people, toddlers and trucks sharing the same space.  Unsurprisingly, the research findings do not support a sunny view of shared space.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents reported a negative experience of shared space. Even more worryingly, thirty-five per cent said they actively avoided shared space, that’s over a third of people planned out of their local community, their local shops, their local support services.  This type of totalitarian planning would make even an old style Soviet feel some shame.  The research also indicated a significant under reporting of accidents in these shared spaces.

The findings are stark, the solution clear, an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes until thorough impact assessments can be conducted.  This must be combined with a central record of accident data including “courtesy crossings”, which must be defined and monitored.  There is also a need for updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.  

Has so called “shared space” achieved an inclusive experience for all? No, it most certainly has not.  Has it opened up our high streets, increased safety and usability? Again, no it has not. Shared space is not a safe place nor a pleasant place, it has turned high streets into traffic free for alls, it has caused confusion, chaos and catastrophe.

In the words of survey respondents, shared space is:

 “Lethally dangerous” (Pedestrian)

“Absolute nightmare that I avoid if I can.” (Driver)

“Shared space is a false promise with poor delivery” (Cyclist) 

Shared-use streets a safety disaster says, ex-Paralympian, BBC News

Halt city ‘shared spaces’, says report by Lord Holmes, BBC News

Cars and pedestrians don’t mix well concludes study into shared space schemes, Independent

Chaos, Confusion and Catastrophe, Politics Home

Shared space schemes labelled dangerous in Lords report, Architects Journal

The Holmes Report into Shared Space, Cycling Embassy of Great Britain

Ex-Paralympian in call to end shared space crossings, Swindon Advertiser

Time to stop sharing?, Lord of the Blogs

Daily Politics asks if ‘shared space’ is safe….

End of the road for white lines on highway, The Times

Please tweet using #stopsharedspace