Friday 1 July 2011

Byng Place and the influence of the anti-infrastructural “Shared Space” movement

Apologies for a long post again. This post started as merely a codicil to my last one, on Camden's cycle tracks, which was suggested to me by photographs I took on Wednesday showing how a short section of the Bloomsbury cycle track has suffered a totally unnecessary and counterproductive makeover since it was first built. The post then developed into a long essay on Shared Space.

My last post discussed at some length the problems and opposition that the campaigns to implement the London Borough of Camden's segregated cycle tracks in Royal College Street and Bloomsbury had to overcome. The opposition from taxis drivers one might have expected. But I also discussed the opposition from some cyclists. There were (are) two strands of thinking here, really: the first, that the cycle tracks would necessarily be so poorly implemented that we shouldn't bother. This argument is best addressed by demonstrating examples of best-practice internationally. However, there was, and is, also a more fundamentalist objection, which some cyclists actually do put forward: that cycling is best and most efficiently done in an environment containing motor traffic. This strand of thinking, exemplified in the writings of John Forrester and John Franklin, is unpicked in Paul Gannon's essay Segregated Facilities:
His [Franklin's] response was that he was describing how Dutch cyclists often report having problems with motor vehicle traffic when they come to the UK. This was what he meant by a lower competence. But this, and other discussions with people who oppose segregated cycle facilities, show just how much people misunderstand the reality of cycling in places such as the Netherlands...
There is a deep rooted, unquestioned assumption here – namely that the key cycling skill is about dealing with motor vehicles. The argument becomes a circular one – the skill that matters is dealing with motor vehicle traffic, ergo anything that reduces the relative significance of that skill is undesirable....
I suspect that the fear of segregated facilities is really a fear that hard-won, highly-valued skills of handling all those motor vehicles will be become less important.
But another strand of opposition to these tracks has been different again. This has sometimes come from cyclists, but more typically from architects and self-styled “urbanists”, who believe that the well-tried, tested and proven Dutch model of separating out cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles in their own spaces is inferior to their favoured theory of Shared Space, where all three groups intermingle and negociate harmoniously in a suitably-designed environment. This is the point of view that I will deal with in the rest of this blog post, demonstrating the results of the interference of the anti-infrastructural Shared Space movement on a small part of Camden's Bloomsbury cycle track, in Byng Place, WC1.

Now I have to say here that I am totally unconvinced by the arguments of the Shared Space movement. I can think of so many counter-arguments to the whole Shared Space concept, I find it hard to know where to begin. But I will try.

Shared Space advocates think that the model of segregating different modes of transport is inferior to that of integrating them in the same space. But in what sense it is really held to be "inferior" I find it difficult to fathom, in that I find it difficult to see any evidence-base supporting the Shared Space theory that demonstrates in any concrete respect better outcomes – be they social, transportation, health, safety or economic outcomes – for Shared Space as opposed to segregation.  Segregation for cycling (and I know some people dislike that word, but it is a clearly-defined term, so I will continue to use it), segregation for cycling, in its Dutch and Danish and North German forms anyway, is about prioritising the bicycle. By definition, Shared Space cannot prioritise anything – so is it not, by definition, a fundamentally weaker method of promoting sustainable transport?

I feel much of this may really come down to purely personal aesthetic choices and value judgements. To support this idea I will give you the story of John Adams and the Bloomsbury cycle track. Professor John Adams is a well-known proponent of Shared Space in the UK – to be precise, in Camden, at University College London, where he teaches geography. Interestingly, this is right next to the Bloomsbury cycle track. So when Adams talked to Camden Cycling Campaign in 2005, it was interesting to hear what he said about this. Some of what he said is in the report on the CCC webpage, but this also covers many other topics on which he spoke, and some of what he said on the cycle track issue was not reported there, but I noted immediately afterwards in an email to to the CCC Yahoo! group.

Adams said of the Bloomsbury Cycle Track:
"Whatever its other merits, no-one could claim it is attractive"
and of the Bloomsbury streetscape:
"It is my ambition to civilise it to a level where segregation will no longer be needed "
So there you have two purely arbitrary value judgements: a cycle track is "unattractive" (though it certainly is, in another sense, "attractive" to the hundreds of cyclists who use it every day) and it is, in some mysterious way, "not civilised" enough for Adams. Not a very scientific position from the Professor of Geography, it seems to me. Rather, this is pure prejudice.

The cycle track in Torrington Place WC1: "not attractive" or "civilised" according to John Adams, but "attractive" enough to the large numbers of cyclists using it.
After Adams stated that the the cycle track was "not attractive", I objected to this passing of a purely subjective aesthetic judgement on a piece of functional engineering that is there to do a job. I asked the Camden cyclists at the meeting to vote, by a show of hands, whether they thought the road had been made more or less attractive by the installation of the cycle track. Most people thought the road had been made more attractive. But Adams then, objecting to my formulation of the poll, asked rather if we could not have a choice between those options and his ideal solution, which he described as a thorough mixing of all three modes without segregation, but with greatly reduced and calmed traffic. Many people supported this.

This brings me to another objection to Shared Space. It is ahistorical, and politically naive. What Adams was asking for was a vote on something that was never on offer, and could never be on offer without a powerful political movement to make it so. He had no mechanism to offer for how this greatly reduced and calmed traffic environment could be achieved by the methods of Shared Space alone.

What I mean by describing it as "ahistorical" is that Shared Space offers no explanation of how things came to be as they are now. It therefore is unconvincing in its assertion that the problems that we have on streets, with all their modern infrastructure, can suddenly be solved merely by removing the infrastructure and leaving the street "naked". For the infrastructure we have evolved to solve perceived problems. Why should putting policy into reverse-gear and going back to a mediaeval street not result in just all the same problems that the infrastructure developed to solve? Proponents of Shared Space claim it is "all in the design", but, quite frankly, I can't see that design is that powerful. Engineering and laws and their enforcement are powerful, coloured paving slabs are not. And I think the evidence of the performance of Shared Spaces and Naked Streets that have been implemented supports me in this.

Paul Gannon, again, puts the "ahistorical" argument powerfully (this post is lengthy but worth reading in full). It is, in his view, all about power:
The facts of power and status on the roads - which people understand tacitly - is what lies behind people saying that cycling is dangerous. The effectiveness of the cavalry attack depended on the horse and rider, individually or in a mass, approaching at a high speed and with weight. If a square of soldiers could withstand the shock of the attack, they could survive; if they dithered and cowered, or as individuals, they never stood a chance. The psychological component of the weapon was intimidation, playing upon the natural human inclination to get the hell out of the way when a half a ton of fast-moving mass is coming straight at you. The modern equivalent of the charging horse is the motor vehicle (and not just the 4x4) because it uses the same effect as the charger to establish its priority by fear of ‘flesh to metal interaction’.
This can be seen by referring to the recent discussion about pedestrian priority at junctions, as per Highway Code, and vehicle priority, as per reality. Pedestrians did not give up that priority willingly, saying to car drivers, ‘no, no, you go ahead, please’, but in stepping back from potential bodily damage from an approaching mass, eventually established the ‘standard’, with only a fossil memory somehow still preserved in the Highway Code.
The simple fact of the matter is that people do not want to have to be put in the position of constantly having to face the life and death decision of "Do I carry on or give way?". When the odds are so heavily against you in the event of an error (in terms of asymmetric physical consequences for cyclist/pedestrian and vehicle driver), factors of power are unavoidable.
Crossrider has, more recently, taken a very similar line:
Sharing is a great concept, but it presupposes that the parties sharing are more or less equal in power, and there isn't one group of bullies in the playground that are so much bigger and tougher than the other kids that they are able to intimdate their way to the lion's share of what's on offer.
The reason pavements work is everyone is of more or less equal strength and weight, and each individual is usually not capable of inflicting much damage on another (at least, unintentionally)....
As soon as you introduce cars into the shared space, the dynamic changes. Even if most drivers act with care and consideration, it only takes one or two before pedestrians are anxiously looking about, grabbing their childrens' hands and scurrying to the side the every time they hear a car engine. So you get a 'scared space', not a 'shared space'.
I'm going to suggest that shared space is actually a nonsense concept. It's used to justify spending a fortune on York stone slabs, granite setts, and generally digging up the road and giving it a makeover to keep highway engineers in a job. All you really need to do is get rid of the traffic. 
Adams, and also another "expert" on the urban environment who I heard talk recently, Andrew Cameron of WSP Group, who gave one of the Movement for Liveable London's Street Talks at the Yorkshire Grey pub, are believers in naked streets: in reducing signage and clear instructions to road-users in order to introduce chaos and uncertainty deliberately into the street environment, in the belief that this is actually desirable, to make road-users more careful and considerate. They talk about a "good chaos". But what is this, and does it really happen when soft human beings and hard metal masses on wheels are mixed up together chaotically?

I feel there is something in the argument that we could, without loss, reduce the marking and signage on UK roads. British roads are certainly far too marked-up. They are the most marked-up and cluttered with signs and symbols and painted lines in the world. The roads that I observed in Hami, Xinjiang, China, (with segregated cycle/moped tracks), were almost totally devoid of give-way lines, lane markings, and such like, but appeared very safe. However, the Chinese did segregate two-wheelers from other traffic, in this particular town anyway. And of course, I haven't seen their KSI stats, if, indeed, this closed regime publishes such things. So this observation doesn't prove much.

Cycle track/service road and street in Hami, NW China. No white lines in sight.
I have also observed the ancient walled cities in Morocco,  where there are no pavements or kerbs of any kind, all space is shared, and there is just a slow milling mass of animals, humans, motor vehicles, bikes, carts etc. all day. This is Shared Space. But it is also an under-developed country. And again, we don't have their danger statistics. So I doubt how much we can learn from examples like this in the UK. In an advanced industrialised country, we need to prioritise some things over others to meet the twin goals of maintaining both speed and efficiency of communications, and encouraging people to take more environmentally-friendly options where they are practical. We need to consider how best we can do this, and ensure social equality at the same time.

Here's an example which may appear irrelevant, but it shows these relationships in action. When I visited rural areas in eastern USA, I noticed that railway (railroad) lines don't have controlled level crossings with roads, and it doesn't seem to cause disasters. In the UK, level crossings have gates and are controlled by signals. But in the USA, rail services are slow, and most people there prefer to travel by car or by air. My point is that not segregating can be environmentally counter-productive. We in the West cannot in general go back to the kind of "primitive" society I saw in the ancient walled cities of Morrocco, and it is what might be termed "Shared Space romanticism" to think that we could. There are also issues, as my partner Helen would point out, of inclusion for disabled people. She would not enjoy the "primitive" streetscape in her wheelchair, and would not be happy to have our street in Edgware made a "naked road".

Now I have observed examples of Shared Space in continental cities that appeared to work very well. But they have been a particular type of place. They have been the centres of old cities, in locations that are "final destinations" in themselves. Like the market square in Münster, Germany's leading cycling city. This is surrounded by quite an area of Shared Space streets. But the important point here is that this is a destination, not a place of throughput, not a route. And motor traffic is very low here, reduced to essential access, because this is the very epicentre of a city design that has been developed, in recent years, to minimise motor traffic in the centre by the provision of ring-roads to take the traffic elsewhere, by a network of segregated cycle tracks to encourage cycling in the city, and by a road system that makes it very difficult to drive and park in the centre. So the Shared Space of the square only tops-off this regime, so to speak, it doesn't generate its own environment. I would be fearful of this kind of Shared Space just plonked down in the centre of London, on a through-route (as indeed they are trying to do at Exhibition Road, South Kensington).

Shared Space in the market square, Münster, Germany.
Here's another example of a seemingly successful Shared Space street (well, shared-ish, in this case), from the old town in Geneva. Here the cobbles have been carefully done so some semblance of the concept of a pavement and carriageway has been retained, yet so has a "mediaeval" feel, in this very narrow street from which, again, all but essential motor traffic has been excluded. But the same applies here as for Münster. It's the epicentre of a big area that has had a comprehensive stack of measures applied to to eliminating motor traffic. There is plenty of segregated infrastructure, for bikes, trams, cars and pedestrians elsewhere in Geneva. Oh yes, the Swiss are very hot on segregation of the modes in general, on the through-routes.

Shared Space in Geneva old town
Segregated cycle track to the right, and segregated tram track to the left, on a main road in the outskirts of Geneva
It is important to for UK audiences to assess how important, in reality, the Shared Space concept has been in generating cycle cultures in Europe. It has not been at all important. In the October 2007 issue of CTC's Cycle magazine there was an article about the continental, mainly Dutch, cycling experience. It mentions Hans Monderman's concept of Shared Space, but also interviews Martijn Sargentini, bike chief in Amsterdam, a very important person. He says:
I'd never heard of Hans Monderman or "shared space" until all these foreign visitors came here and kept telling me about them. Here in Amsterdam we are very clear – for safety, for speed, to give an advantage to the bike, we aim to separate wherever possible. On some routes we now need broader paths to reduce cycling congestion.
So the ongoing thrust of Dutch cycling policy continues to be the segregation of cyclists from other traffic. No case can be made that the success of any of the major high-cycling cities in Europe has anything significantly to do with Shared Space. And our resident English cycle blogger in The Netherlands, David Hembrow, is none too keen on the examples of Shared Space he has come across:
For me, cycling in places like this is the closest I come in this country to the conditions in cycle unfriendly towns of the UK where cycling is a fringe activity. I find I am happy to be out of it and back on the normal Dutch provision...
In my view, Shared Space is the one real mistake that has been made in the Netherlands. It's not liked by cyclists, and it really doesn't work well for cyclists.
Another point I have noticed about Shared Space is that many of its proponents are pretty vague on what it actually is. In the real world, the rhetoric on Shared Space and Naked Streets leads to three possible physical outcomes, which I will designate here as:

1) Strong Shared Space, 
2) Weak Shared Space, and
3) The Naked Street that is actually no different to what we had before.

1) Strong Shared Space 
This is where all the kerbs have been removed, so there is no pavement. This is what, I believe, we are due to get in Exhibition Road. This is the type that really put the willies up the disabled and the blind.

2) Weak Shared Space
This is where there is a shared cycle path and pavement, and a kerb of some description between that and the road. This is an arrangement guaranteed to annoy pedestrians and to make cyclists opposed to the concept of cycle paths, if there is any significant level of cycle traffic, which, of course, is exactly what we are aiming for as cycle campaigners. As I will show, this is what has been done on part of the Bloomsbury cycle track, and here, on a strategic cycle route, it is A Bad Thing.

3) The Naked Street that is actually no different to what we had before
This is when a certain amount of repaving, putting up of "artistic" street lamp columns designed by students at the local art college, and a little bit of street furniture removal has been performed, but we are left with pedestrians on the pavement and (most) cyclists and cars on the road, with a kerb separating them, as we normally have in the UK. This is a description of the much-hyped Naked Street development of Kensington High Street.

Kensington High Street, courtesy of Wikipedia, photo by Tom Graham. This Naked Street looks to me exactly like the motor-dominated environment we had before
And so, on to Bloomsbury. In 2006 Terry Farrell, the most influential architect in London, and an adviser to Boris Johnson, was commissioned by Camden Council to write a document called Bloomsbury: A Strategic Vision. This, far from being strategic, just proposed a cosmetic revamping of a few streets, some of them in Shared Space style. In the artists' pictures in the report, pedestrians were shown skipping in carefree manner on the roads of Bloomsbury, or enjoying a continental café culture there. But, strangely, there was no mention of how all the through-traffic would be removed from the streets. There was also no recognition of the fact that a strategic, high-use cycle route ran through here, the Seven Stations Link, or LCN Route 0, as I described in my last post.

Typical picture in the Farrell report on Bloomsbury showing the concept of Shared Space: but where's the traffic gone??
The Farrell report recommended destroying the highly-popular segregated cycle track through  Torrington Place, Byng Place, Gordon Square and Tavistock Square, built only 4 years before at great expense, and replacing it all with Shared Space. Worryingly, the case put forward was purely an aesthetic one, just like John Adams' arbitrary aesthetic view of the same track, not one based on safety or on promoting cycling. The cycle track was in fact an irrelevance to Farrells. They hadn't even understood what it was for. And nothing in their plan actually took motor traffic away.

Torrington Place. Farrell's plan was to replace all this with Shared Space, without removing all those cars
As soon as the Farrell plan appeared, it was praised by certain cycle campaigners who had never liked the concept of the segregated Seven Stations Link in the first place. Camden Cycling Campaign (CCC) fought the Farrell plan and largely won, probably because lots of other locals, businesses and groups thought it was daft as well, and objected, and because there was not the money to implement it – though I am not sure it is entirely dead even now. Little of the Farrell plan has been implemented, but one short section of the Seven Stations Link (LCN Route 0), Byng Place, was changed. Farrell's original plan proposed Strong Shared Space here, no kerbs at all, but Weak Shared Space was implemented: the original, clearly demarcated, green asphalt cycle track designed by CCC was removed, and a strange, bleak, puzzling expanse of tiles was put in its place, at a slightly higher level than the cycle track connecting to it at each end. Some benches were placed on this expanse. Similar tiles were used on the roadway, but at a lower level.

This picture shows the green track outside the University of London Union building. This is what Byng Place was like before the makeover (I don't have a photo of Byng Place before the makeover.)

Torrington Place by ULU, looking towards Byng Place
And this shows the new design of Byng Place looking towards Torrington Place, with the strange expanse of paving, and the benches. Notice how pedestrians have an enormous pavement here anyway, and don't need the "expanse". What on earth was the point of this? What has it achieved?

Byng Place Shared Space with Boris Bikers
What it has in fact achieved is confusion. Here are two hapless pedestrians wandering on a strategic, high-volume cycle route.

Pedestrians on Byng Place cycle route
I overheard the conversation of these pedestrians after I took this photo. They had noticed the cyclists zooming past their ears at 15–20mph and were palpably disturbed. "How were we supposed to know this was the cycle path?", one said. "We can see it is green over on that side, and over on that side, but why does it disappear here?" I spoke to them and tried to explain that the cycle track used to be continuous, but that some clever architect had not thought it attractive enough, and had decided to replace it with this grey paving that was designed deliberately to confuse road users and create "good chaos", but I knew what I was saying would make no sense to them. It made no sense to me. Shared Space, I am afraid, makes no sense.

As Easy As Riding A Bike
blog has recently reviewed a Shared Space Street in Horsham, Sussex, and also given it a thumbs-down:
By my estimates, pedestrians outnumber vehicles by around 30:1. Yet the two vehicles that drive down the street – albeit reasonably carefully and considerately – completely dominate the environment. There is, ostensibly, an equality between what I dislike calling ‘road users’ in this shared space, but unfortunately some road users are more equal than others. Can we honestly say that East Street is ‘shared’, when the minority mode of use hogs it?

.... Motor vehicles are taking over. They are systematically destroying the pedestrian-friendly furniture. They are increasingly clogging up the street, and making pedestrians more wary of having to deal with ‘traffic.’

One thing I notice in the discussions of the Shared Space proponents is that they are aware of many of the objections that people raise to the concept, the objections you have read here. But there is an apparently emotional attachment to the concept, what I have called Shared Space Romanticism, that leads them constantly to be searching, seeking, for that magical Shared Space solution that will give true Shared Space but without all the downsides. From Reinventing Urban Transport:
Could shared-space design be modified to retain a sense of 'subjective safety' for pedestrians and bicycle users WITHOUT giving motorists too much confidence about their right-of-way? Can the vulnerable street users be given safe havens without prompting motorists to get complacent and assume they will stay within their designated spaces?
Are Dutch-style bicycle paths really not compatible with a shared space? Are protected pedestrian crossings? 
In places that are candidates for shared space treatments, we really want a calm environment that makes people feel very comfortable walking and cycling. We want motorists to proceed with caution and to feel uncertain of their right of way in locations where sharing the streets is important. But we actually DON'T really want vulnerable road users feeling vulnerable or facing uncertainty about their safety.
Can we get such a 'best of both worlds' outcome?
Philosophically, this is very reminiscent of old-style Soviet communism: a romantic attachment to an ideal that could never quite be made to work out properly in the real world, but which kept inspiring adherents to try harder to make reality match the "true, pure theory".

And on the webpage referenced above there are some more good public comments on Shared Space. One of them:
The shared space concept seems to me to be using fear of hitting people as a mechanism for traffic calming. I would rather use trees or other obstacles to calm traffic, rather than a kid in the road.
And another:
I live in Germany. The street I live in has recently been turned into a "shared space" place. It's actually quite appalling. No-one has any idea what to do. It's only about 30 metres and on the boundary of a pedestrian area, so a lot of pedestrians think they're in a mall and can safely walk out into the middle of the road, and then so many people just end up confused and quite probably scared. I hardly think that is the intention of "shared space", scared pedestrians.
A lot of the cars that drive down the street are coming out of a carpark. The street is one-way; they follow the signs to a carpark, and when they leave they have to turn right and go through the unfamiliar shared zone. They're often confused and drive cautiously. Mission accomplished.
Then there's the regulars. Most of them treat it not much differently than they treat the clearly separated road before it. They drive just as fast and in the inimitable style of German drivers leave almost no margin for error. Again, I hardly think this counts as achieving the desired result.
The net result is that pedestrians have to keep out of the way of cars, except that they don't have the confidence of knowing that this particular area is out of the way of cars.
When visiting relatives in Holland, they complained about exactly the same things. It makes pedestrians feel unsafe, it's confusing. How can that be a good thing?

When I heard about the idea, I thought it sounded pretty good. Now I have experienced it, I don't think it has any value at all. There's plenty of better approaches to traffic calming.
Shared Space was invented by Hans Monderman. According to this biography:
Although Monderman has been championed as a traffic engineer who revolutionized the profession by designing streets not just for motorists but for pedestrian and cyclists, he always remained a car-lover who relished tooling around the backroads of Holland in his green Saab.
Whatever "tooling" means...

My final summary of the arguments against Shared Space is as follows:

1. It doesn't achieve the objectives of prioritisation of desirable modes of transport that need to be fulfilled in an industrially advanced but sustainable society and economy; it is historically and technologically naive in believing that desirable outcomes can be achieved just by the removal of infrastructure;

2. It doesn't provide a mechanism or real political movement for challenging the dominance of the car in cities: it is overly theoretical and idealistic, and doesn't address real issues of power and intimidation;

3. It doesn't take into account the views of the vulnerable, such as the frail, blind and disabled; It risks the motorised (or cycleised) intimidation these groups, and others, in its search for the elusive ideal Shared Space environment;

4. It doesn't recognise that many people do not want to have to "negotiate" for space and safe passage: they wish to be protected by infrastructure and by laws;

5. There are no, or few, good, generally-recognised successful examples of shared space;

6. Where there are apparently successful examples, a good case can be made that the success was actually down to there never having been much motor traffic in the first place, or down to motor traffic removal through other measures;

7. There is a lack of good demonstrable examples of Shared Space actually having increased walking or cycling by itself.

The danger of introducing "good chaos" into the street environment is that you introduce, well, just chaos, where the weak lose out. This is the reverse of civilised progress. Chaos is what physicists call Entropy. The Third Law of Thermodynamics says that Entropy always increases. Well, perhaps it increases a little bit more when we have the Shared Space brigade in charge. Me, I would prefer a rational, orderly society, with activities so far as possible occurring on infrastructure designed to take them. Is that too much to ask?


  1. Excellent, rational critique of the flaws in the 'shared space' concept. The most powerful conclusion is that 'shared space' is effective around a destination - whether a market square, an historic building or a cul de sac and is useless on through routes.

  2. Excellent post, yet again. As you say, sharing only works in an environment where there are few of the physically more powerful 'equals'. We really must draw this to the attention of those in power PDQ. Exhibition Road will turn out to be a colossal waste of public money but we can't say 'We told you so!'

  3. There is one other negative aspect of the Byng Place 'shared space' apart from bringing pedestrians into conflict with cyclists.

    Nowhere in the resurfaced area is there a dropped kerb for wheelchair users. Pedestrians naturally prefer to cut across the corner, through the open space, as this is the obvious desire line. But if you are in, or pushing, a wheelchair you are forced to take the long way round because you can't access the new resurfaced area.

    The clowns who came up with this design not only have failed to understand cycling, they haven't even shown the most rudimentary awareness of the needs of people with a mobility problem.

    I think we can safely assume that everyone involved with the Byng Place project is able-bodied and perceives the world exclusively through a car window.

    Another brilliant post, by the way. A comprehensive demolition job.

  4. The cycle track in Torrington Place is not attractive. Patchy asphalt, ugly bollards etc. It looks like it was planned by an traffic engineer.

    Byng Place Shared Space looks more like an architect planned it. It's all about the looks. Although those benches look like they've been dropped at the corner of a parking lot.

    I wouldn't give that street design very high grades either. The street does not give the pedestrians any clues where they should be and what they could do there. It's not very functional, as it puts the cyclists and pedestrians in conflict.

    'Good Chaos'- are they satanists? :-P

  5. As I think you observe, "attractive" means having the power to attract people to it. It doesn't mean "pretty".

    The City of London is afflicted with the compulsion to prettify everything in sight, with granite paving etc, and the results are frequently awful in functional terms, not just for cyclists but for pedestrians and even motorists.

    As for my personal experience of architects, they draw a pretty picture but the engineers, builders etc quickly find the designs don't work.

    I'm not arguing for ugly, but let's forget about pretty and let's tell architects to butt out of it.

  6. Good post, I will keep this for when people blather on. I have a bike, I occasionally cycle. I pretty much don't cycle because I often can't be bothered to work up the 'attitude' to deal with cars. Segregated cycle lanes and I would be there cycling every day -everywhere- and so would a lot of other people (particularly women).

  7. I think you can trace the British preoccupation with shared space down to this publication
    or more importantly (as I suspect I'm one of the few architects that have actually read it in full) the fact Hamilton Baillie has based his career on it and managed to generate a fair bit of noise around the subject.

    The problem is so many people have latched onto the idea, more as an aesthetic rather than understanding that it can only work successfully in limited and specific locations. The idea that it is suitable for anywhere with more than very infrequent traffic is ridiculous.

    It has also been confused with the entirely separate (IMO) idea of decluttering and removal of the dreadful "cattle pen" railings that make our town centre streets look like racing tracks and make pedestrians take excessive detours to cross the road.

    I would however be wary of attributing people walking in the cycle lane down to poor design as from my experience in Sheffield it doesn't seem to make any difference. Red tarmac with cycles painted on it apparently has a magnetic attraction to people walking, so much so that they prefer it to the pavement...

  8. Sorry pasted the wrong link it should've been this one:

  9. It took me a while to twig the madness of shared space, which as you observe has a certain romantic idealism about it all. I feel ashamed about that lapse, but one thing that helped me snap out of it was cycling through Byng Place.