Survey finds public unhappy with shared space design approach

Highways Reporters

The results of a survey about public attitudes to shared space shows that 62% of people have negative experiences of the design approach.

Shared space schemes remove features such as curbs, road surface markings, traffic signs, controlled crossings and regulations and throws buses and blind people, trucks and toddlers together in the same ‘shared’ space. There are no separate safe spaces for pedestrians and no clear regulations for drivers.

The survey was launched by Paralympic Champion and Parliamentarian Lord (Chris) Holmes (pictured), who is blind himself. He has called for an immediate stop on all shared space schemes while impact assessments are carried out.

He said: “An immediate moratorium on all shared space is absolutely essential. I hope that this survey will act as a wake-up call to all involved in these dangerous and costly planning follies. Town centres are being turned into dangerous third world traffic free-for-alls. Shared space is not a safe place, overzealous councils are risking public safety for aesthetics and the result is confusion, chaos, unnecessary cost and catastrophe.”

Blind and partially sighted people have particular difficulties with the schemes but this survey – which polled over 600 shared space users – including drivers, cyclists and pedestrians with experience from over 100 locations around the UK, showed that shared space is unpopular with all users.

The results of the survey demonstrate that these shared space schemes do not meet the aims, as set out by the government, “to improve pedestrian movement and comfort” and “enable all users to share the space”. Respondents repeatedly described shared space as frightening, intimidating and dangerous and 35% reported going out of their way to avoid them.

The survey, also showed an under reporting of accidents in shared space schemes.

Lord Holmes conducted the survey in order to establish a greater understanding of the impact of shared spaces on the public. Recommendations in immediate response to the results of the survey include:

  • Immediate moratorium on shared space schemes while impact assessments are conducted

  • Urgent need for accessibility audits of all shared space schemes and a central record of accident data including “courtesy crossings”, which must be defined and monitored

  • Department for Transport must update their guidance so that local authorities better understand their responsibilities under the Equalities Act.

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