Saturday 27 December 2014

The devastating effect of Shared Space on the blind.

Shared Space represents a return of "might is right" to roads which could instead have been transformed to favour cycling and walking.

I've long been opposed to Shared Space because of its effect on all vulnerable road users. In 2008 I quoted the UK Guide Dog's association who said that "All of the participants reported greater difficulty" in Shared Space areas. The video below, produced in the UK, further shows the effect of Shared Space on blind people:

In the past I've visited many Shared Spaces in the Netherlands and well as in the UK. This includes Exhibition Road in London and the Shared Spaces in Southend-on-Sea.

Another UK example mentioned in the video is Poynton. Many claims were made for the safety of the new arrangement in Poynton before and just after its conversion to Shared Space, but now that a few years have passed we can see that the new layout in Poynton has proven to be ten times more dangerous for pedestrians in the period after conversion to Shared Space when compared with the period before.

Shared Space in Assen. Able-bodied cyclists don't like it either.
Note also how well "place-making" worked out. It's become
one of very few places in Assen with a fly-tipping problem.
Not just a problem in Britain
One participant in the video makes a point that it is British planners who don't understand Shared Space. There's a suggestion in the video that it somehow works better in the Netherlands but this is not really so. In reality, Shared Space doesn't work well in the Netherlands either and we see exactly the same problems in this country as are seen in the UK. Vulnerable road users are disenfranchised by Shared Space in just the same in the Netherlands as in the UK.

Hans Monderman's own pet schemes are not excluded from this criticism (see previous posts about Haren and Drachten).

Real statistics
Advocates of Shared Space continue to make claims of safety without any supporting statistics. Earlier this year, I revealed how the claims of safety are not backed up by Dutch road traffic crash statistics, which actually show quite bad safety records for many Shared Spaces compared with their surrounding area.

Counter the hype
Shared Space is a hype. This was acknowledged even by Hans Monderman during his lifetime. I would like think that had he remained alive, Hans could have countered some of the myths which grew up around his idea and slowed down its adoption. Sadly he is no longer here to do that.

Shared Space has become a deception which everyone needs to counter. It's not good for blind people or those with difficulty in moving, not good for people who are aged, not good for pedestrians and not good for cyclists. It's not even particularly great for car drivers who feel pushed into making strange manoeuvres.

People with disabilities can benefit from cycling infrastructure
While Shared Space creates problems for people with disabilities, good road and cycle path design can make conditions better for people with disabilities. Campaigners for cycling and for disabled rights should be allies. Read more about this subject.