UPDATE MAY 2018
This remains a subject and style of road design much liked by many members. there is no precise definition though and many hybrid schemes about. Poynton, south of Manchester remains a great example.
HCS supports the concept of “shared space”.This report by a member who studied under Leon Krier, Europe’s most respected master planner, describes one of the latest projects in England.
There’s a lot of talk about shared space in planning and highway departments, but it is a somewhat polarised debate – those who like the continental town squares where cars and pedestrians mix, without any apparent order; and the highway engineers obsessed with regulation, traffic lights, signage and order.
“Shared space” is best described as routes where we “give way to all”. These are the only words on the signage when one approaches Poynton, in Cheshire. A small town situated on a cross roads of a major traffic route and a high street. Ben Hamilton-Baillie designed the project, removing traffic lights, installing two free form roundabouts and the approach roads reduced to a single lane in each direction.
A straw poll of drivers and pedestrians (July 2013) gave a thumbs up for the expensive improvements. A full professional evaluation is expected soon. But this scheme was not just for road surface realignments, it was a make over to stimulate the economic activity of the town. With just one unlet shop unit out of sixty this looks as though it has worked. Consistent paving patterns within the frontages of the shops helps to provide a subtle background for several cafes and restrained sales areas. There is a free civic carpark, what a pleasant change, what an invitation, you are welcome in our town.
Rather than the stop start regime of traffic lights here vehicles proceed if the road is clear. Some vehicles have to stop, but the respect for other road users was clear. Giving way to traffic from the right is the law in Great Britain and that is maintained, without reference. New drivers might be a little perplexed as to how to proceed on a roundabout with no Give Way signs, but hesitation and eyeballing all other road users is all that is needed. This respect for other road users is palpable, when a pedestrian turns to cross the road the slow moving traffic stops; but it was a pity to note some cyclists were exempting themselves from the shared space philosophy.
Quality stone has been used throughout with shallow (inch and a half ) kerbs delineating the vehicle lanes, contrasting stone indicating preferred crossing places and clay paviors for definite pedestrian and shop front areas. The roundabouts are single lane and appear small but adequate areas allow for run over by large lorries. Exiting from the Civic Car Park adjacent to a Waitrose supermarket appeared to be a problem, especially at busy times; as the changes in the surface texture gives no real advice as to priority.
Almost a religious movement, this sharing and caring humanises a place; brings back respect for each other. Environmentally friendly with less stationary vehicles polluting the atmosphere; less emissions as vehicles accelerate away from traffic lights; but also a spiritual experience encouraging better driver behaviour. Observing the shared space in action, it became obvious that everyone is now thinking about what they are doing – whether it be pedestrian or vehicle. Perhaps this is a major contributory factor as to why there has been a reduction of accidents?
John Townsend writes...Since our HCS visit I tried to ascertain the current state of play on undoing some of the aspects of the Home Zone at Magor but can find very little up to date information on the internet. A DfT report – see below - emphasises that the range of user responses to these schemes seems to be highly site specific, and it may be that the apparently negative reaction to the Magor Scheme could be lead by a particularly highly vocal business section or mothers at the school.
Our immediate impression was that some of the shared space concept was negated by the use of many different materials to differentiate the perceived uses of various areas. This may perhaps have resulted partly from the need to keep the cost to a minimum by utilising the existing pavement surfaces which thus continued to shout out “pedestrians here”.
DfT Shared Space Project
Stage 1: Appraisal of Shared Space - Report for the Department of Transport - Nov 2009