|Shared Space: Cyclists followed closely by a|
taxi keen to overtake
It shows a remarkable faith in human nature to expect this to happen, and I'm sure we'd all like it to be true. But is it true, or is this just a case of The Emperor's New Clothes ?
|Shared Space - Does the cyclist fit in that gap ?|
|Shared Space - pedestrians have to wait for|
gaps in traffic before running across the road
The centre of Haren is very busy and cyclists really need to look out there. By Dutch standards, I find it not a very pleasant place to cycle. It's the only place that I've had to do an emergency stop in this country to avoid a crash and if the Shared Space part of the town was any more than a few hundred metres long, I think I'd take another route to completely avoid it.
Take a look at the photos that I took on the way through. There are cyclists being pursued by a taxi, another who has been overtaken as he pulled out to get around a parked car, a pedestrian at the side of the road who is having trouble getting a chance to cross, and, well, cars, cars and more cars. Some of them blocking the pavement. At least the speed limit is just 30 km/h, and Dutch drivers seem more aware of their responsibilities towards vulnerable road users than some of those elsewhere.
|Shared Space - cars, cars, cars. It's not for bikes.|
If you watch this video about Haren you will see a comment by youtube user "dgoedkoop" which reads "Heel wijs om alleen op de winkeliers in te gaan, en niet op de weggebruikers. Want de fietsers zijn er zeker niet blij mee, dat de fietspaden zijn weggehaald!
Dat lijkt sowieso het grote nadeel van Shared Space, want in het filmpje uit Drachten kwam ook al naar voren dat er 'slechts' enkele ongelukken met fietsers waren gebeurd."
This translates as "It looks like what the shop-keepers wanted, not the road users. Cyclists certainly are not happy that the cycle paths have been removed. It looks like the great problem with Shared Space, as seen in the video from Drachten, is that 'just a few' crashes between cars and cyclists have been caused."
|Shared Space - more cars, few bikes|
This translates as "I live in Haren where Mr Monderman has convinced the local government that his philosophy is best. Now, many residents of Haren find the situation has become less safe. It is true that more accidents have not resulted, but the subjective safety has got worse. People feel less safe in the new situation. I think that many more near-accidents occur."
"According to Monderman, pedestrians and drivers have to be friendlier and to look out for one another, and then zebra crossings and suchlike are not needed. It doesn't work in practice. At the insistence of many organisations (parents organisations, Fietsersbond (the cyclists union), several zebra crossings have been laid."
|Cartoon in the Fietsersbond newsletter|
This acknowledges that Monderman had become a hero outside the country, but also includes many negative comments from cyclists in the Netherlands.
There are comments from cyclists who are interviewed in which they say that they have to look out much more and that they don't like it. That it has lead to an atmosphere of "might is right" in which some cyclists come off worse, and that it makes people less happy to cycle.
It should be noted that while there are more Shared Space areas here than elsewhere, they are still comparatively rare in this country. There are around 100 areas designed in this way, mostly just single junctions in the centres of villages and small towns. Segregated cycle paths continue to join these places together, and in most cases the majority of the infrastructure is still designed on traditional, successful, Dutch lines with a high degree of segregation of cyclists. If you've heard of Dutch infrastructure increasing the number of cyclists, that is where to look as that is what 99% of the infrastructure looks like. The majority of the infrastructure is designed to avoid conflict in line with sustainable safety principles which have lead to an improvement in safety in the Netherlands.
|Pavement cycling is very rare in the Netherlands because|
cyclists have cycle-paths. However, cyclists feel unsafe in
Shared Space so they use the "pavement" parts of these areas
even though it's not allowed. Not good for pedestrians.
One of the reasons why the Dutch have had such success with controlling traffic is that they try things out. Shared space is but one of a series of brave experiments. I am sure that the better aspects of it will continue to appear in new infrastructure, but the less successful aspects will be left behind. I note that a recent road layout change in Assen right next to a "shared space" style junction from a few years ago did not expand on the shared space but represents a return to more traditional Dutch design with segregated cycle paths.
I am glad about this. It would be foolish to abandon the high level of subjective safety that has lead to such a high degree of cycling. It would take years to build enough cycle unfriendly infrastructure to really impact on the level of cycling, but once the decline started it would carry on for decades.
|Normal Dutch cycle-path outside of the Shared|
Space area of Haren
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.
Update 13th December 2008
I've found three more references to shared space in Haren:
This one includes a response from a Haren resident which says "Citizens club Haren for elderly and children is very much against the shared space in our village Haren. The results during last elections prove this by a unknown shift in elections results. So, beware! As father of two small kids and for my elderly parrent i'm just afraid because of many, many small unregistred accidents of people bumping into each other. We fully disagree with the public statement that we should let our kids run in front off cars to slow down traffic! Just mad and our web campaign won't stop."
This academic paper includes the following in its conclusion: "...there still are noticeable conflicts, and this leads to criticisms by engaged parties, both car drivers and ‘sojourners’. They do not feel safe. In fact pedestrians and bicyclists run more risk than car drivers. The mobility of children, people with handicaps and the elderly is limited; children are not allowed to freely walk around independently; the handicapped and the elderly feel themselves cornered and obliged to use the area as little as possible. They pay the toll."
This one (from the guide dog organisation in the UK) includes this section from people who live in shared space areas: "All of the participants reported greater difficulty using shared surface areas than areas where there is a pavement separated from the road. Several participants considered that most vehicle drivers reduced their speed in shared surface areas and that most vehicle drivers and cyclists were considerate of pedestrians using shared surfaces. However one participant commented that '9 out of 10 cars would stop for me. My difficulty is recognising the 10th'. Use of shared surface areas. All except one of the participants regularly used local shared surface areas alone, without a sighted companion, but found this difficult. One participant commented that: 'We have to use these areas or we will lose our independence'. One participant, older than the others, reported that he no longer used shared surface areas unless he was with a sighted companion."
Some newer blog posts show very much better alternatives to Shared Space.
May 2012 update
|High school students surveying people|
in the shared space. "Is it safe here ?"
There is only one reason why this work was being done specifically about Shared Space, and that is because it remains controversial and unpopular in the Netherlands, even though some "experts" still promote it.
|Hans Monderman: 'It's a nice place to be'|
Whenever it is pointed out that Shared Space doesn't work, someone is guaranteed to pop up and claim that whatever example is being pointed at isn't a proper "Shared Space". This is an example of the No True Scotsman fallacy. An "attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion". It doesn't work with Shared Space because Hans Monderman himself is on record as saying that Haren's Shared Space is a good example. You can see this for yourself in a video of him talking about Haren.
Shared Space is one of a number of things which are misinterpreted from the Netherlands. Please read another blog post which explains how while the Netherlands is still the leader in cycling, that doesn't mean that everything from that country is equally worth copying.
If "Shared Space" does not work, then what does work ?
|Confident cyclists use all of a "nearly car free" street.|
It is not "Shared Space" because cars are excluded.
"Nearly Car Free" or "Autoluwe" streets are very common in the Netherlands and very popular. To the uninitiated, such streets can look like "Shared Space" and it is common for these two concepts to be confused by overseas commentators. However, NCF is a concept which pre-dates the hype about "Shared Space", which remains popular, and which works precisely because the streets are not shared on an equal basis with cars. Read more about Nearly Car Free streets.
It is good that people should see for themselves what these schemes look like, and particularly cycle through them. We cycle right through Haren on our Cycling Study Tours. We also show you good examples of what works, including nearly car free streets.