Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Shared Space again

Following my post Byng Place and the influence of the anti-infrastructural "Shared Space" movement,  another cycling blogger has had a good go at those highly-paid urban designers who think that replacing tarmac and York stone with granite setts somehow achieves an urban nirvana in which all road-users interact in a relaxed and non-threatening manner with another, and all the problems created by motor traffic magically disappear. He has some good info on the Exhibition Road, London SW7, scheme. (This seems to have been going on forever – I have emails from 2005 describing it as "forthcoming", and it is still not finished. No wonder it is costing £27 million for just 750m of road. That's £36,000 per metre. Somehow Britain managed to build most of its railway network in nine years between 1836 and 1845.)
He also has some interesting data from studies that show how pedestrians actually behave in Shared Space environments. Surprise surprise, when traffic speeds or volumes are above a very low level, the space isn't shared at all, pedestrians defer to motor traffic, and keep to the side of the road, where the pavements should be, and only cross when there are gaps in the traffic. Plus ça very expensive change.

He also posts a video of Byng Place which shows nicely how this 150m long £1 million Shared Space (that's a cost of only £6,600 per metre – a bargain), that I discussed in my piece, construction of which which involved the removal of the pioneering segregated cycle track here, works in practice. Here it is. Note how no pedestrians attempt to share the space with the motor vehicles. Marvel particularly at the woman dashing for her life, nearly being run down by an ambulance about 30 seconds in.

No wonder the author entitles his piece The delusion of "shared space" as an urban transport panacea. The tragedy of all this is that the money being wasted on these mis-conceived, modish street makeovers could be being spent on creating the type of infrastructure that is proven to get large numbers of people on bikes. To get a real "cycling revolution", we wouldn't have to spend any more than we are spending at the moment on superficial street alterations, we would just need to get the money that is being mis-spent at the moment directed to the measures that we know will work. A future post will demonstrate this point in more detail.

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