Wednesday 12 November 2008

Shared Space in Haren

Shared Space: Cyclists followed closely by a
taxi keen to overtake
Over the last few years there has been much buzz in the press outside this country about Shared Space. This is the idea that if you get rid of separation between different modes of transport that everyone will be forced to interact on a more human level and a reduction of accidents will result.

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 ?
The idea started over here in the Netherlands with Hans Monderman, who achieved some fame with these ideas before his untimely death earlier this year. I am sure that his intentions were entirely good, but having lived with the results of this type of planning for a while now, I think it is time to cut through the hype that even Hans acknowledged surrounded his work.

Shared Space - pedestrians have to wait for
gaps in traffic before running across the road
There are quite a few Shared Space influenced areas near where we now live. These photos were taken in Haren, a suburb of Groningen about 25 km north of Assen.

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.
I am far from the only person to see Shared Space in this way.

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
That is far from the only criticism. The link above about "hype" includes a quote starting "Ik woon zelf in Haren..."

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
In general, cyclists do not like it. Fietsersbond has objected a few times, including in an article in the November 2007 issue of their newsletter "Vogelvrije Fietser" (that's where the cartoon comes from).

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. 
To me, Shared Space is at its most successful in small villages of just a couple of hundred homes which already had little traffic and where there is really not much of a problem to start with. In bigger places, it can be quite unpleasant.

Pedestrian crossings had to be installed because it turned
out that drivers don't "share" with people crossing the road.
This crossing then had to be moved because it did not work
in the original location, close to other things which
drivers had to concentrate on. Note that the cyclist feels
the need to ride far to the right in "the door zone"
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
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 as shown here further along in 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 ?"
We visit Haren regularly as part of our Study Tours. On the May 2012 tour, entirely by chance, we visited at the same time as a local school was doing a project in the Shared Space. Some students were noting how often drivers gave priority to cyclists when the cyclist had priority (this is a huge problem in shared space areas as drivers tend to assume priority through force). Other students were interviewing people. I filled in a questionnaire which had questions which included whether you felt safe in Haren in general, whether you felt safe in the Shared Space area, and whether you avoided visiting Haren because of the Shared Space.

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.

It was quite clear from listening to the responses given by other people that it's not popular.

Hans Monderman: 'It's a nice place to be'
2013 update
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.
"Shared Space" receives a lot of attention overseas despite having fallen out of favour in the Netherlands. It's not popular here and most town centres do not work on a "Shared Space" basis at all. They are not "shared".

"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.

2014 Update. How safe is Haren really ? More to read
Haren's shared space is
highlighted in red. The
Blue and yellow flags
show collisions and injuries
between 2007 and 2012
There has been much speculation about whether Haren's shared space is safe. Shared Space advocates claim that there's been a reduction in collisions while those who dislike the Shared Space point out that incidents are common.

I now have figures. Between 2007 and 2012, there were 28 collisions and at least five injuries in the shared space are of Haren. As you'll see from the map on the right, the busy road leading to the shared space from the south east and away again towards the north west does not have the same rate of collisions or injuries as does the short shared space section. In about the same length of road outside the Shared Space there was just one collision and this resulted in no injuries. Read more about how the supposed safety of shared space has been exaggerated.

There are also now several other blog posts about shared space. One shows the considerably better environment which resulted from removing motorised traffic from a shared space while another demonstrates how shared space takes away the rights of the vulnerable. Both of those are illustrated with video.

All posts on this blog about Shared Space can be viewed by clicking here.

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.


Anonymous said...

I note that the LibDems what to do this on Mill Road in Cambridge.

Mill Road -


Terry said...

Shared space is a nice idea, but it doesn't work. While some motorists are considerate there's always a minority who will use the size, speed, and protection of their vehicle to bully pedestrians and cyclists.

My own experience is that it doesn't feel safe or relaxing to cycle in these places, and many near misses result at junctions and roundabouts where nobody is quite sure what to do. It puts a lot of demands on inexperienced road users, for instance child cyclists.

It could work, but only if each vehicle is required by law to give priority to more vulnerable road users.

A better, more pleasant and safer solution is segregated cycle paths.

Anneke said...

In my experience, you just can't trust people. I'd like to, but I just can't because some people feel the need to speed in playstreets, and run red lights and the like. That's why shared space is a bad idea. It's not because the majority likes to run over people, but because there is a small minority who like to drive reckless, and thereby endanger people's lives. And however small that group might be, others (i.e. Pedestrians and cyclists) need to be protected from them.

Dave Feucht said...

Here in Portland, Oregon we have mostly shared spaces. The official "bicycle" routes through the city are quite often vehicle roads which have been slightly modified to cause less car traffic or to cause car traffic to go slower, but not to separate it from bike traffic.

The only places in the city I can think of that have completely separated bicycle and pedestrian lanes are on and near a few of the city's bridges, and I love the feeling of riding in those places.

Even on routes where traffic is slowed or there is enough room for cars to go around you, the feeling of the streets is very different than where you have a path all to yourself, and often the car traffic slowing measures are inconvenient for bicyclists as well (such as speed bumps).

There are places with bike lanes as well, but they are always either directly beside traffic (with only paint lines dividing), or between lanes of traffic (which makes you feel like you're being crushed).

I think if the city of Portland wanted to see bicycle numbers jump through the roof, they would make some mass efforts not to create shared spaces with an "emphasis" on bicycles, but to create areas where only bicycles ride. It really does have a totally different feeling of safety to it. Even if there isn't a way of creating segregated bike lanes in some places, they could designate one street going each direction in major areas as bike streets, and block car traffic from driving directly on those streets, and maybe put in a couple traffic signals so cars could cross the streets. I think something like this would totally change how it feels to ride a bike around Portland, and I think a lot of people who feel very scared to ride would be much more likely to give it a go.

Anonymous said...

Shared Space supports the automobile industry, as does Separation (though to a lesser extent). The failure of Shared Space is an argument for Carfree Space more than Separation. Many Dutch prefer Separation to Calvinism, Judaism, Islam amd certainly Carfreeism etc. and if they still want to have their cake and eat it, too in relation to cars then we will just have to put with it, since by and large their Best Practice in Cycling is difficult to fight openly.

Tom Bosschaert said...

I agree with all your comments.
However, Shared Space requires a lot of attention in the design stage, which has clearly not been done. Proper application of Shared Space does not mean to just remove all distinction between road surfaces and just making it a big undistinguised pool...

The examples you show of Haren are incredibly poorly designed. They actually cater for the car, and there's no benefit for the cyclist at all.

Those streets are not Shared Space. They're just poorly designed.

David Hembrow said...

Haren is often considered to be a good example. In fact, here's a video of Hans Monderman himself telling everyone how good it is in Haren.

Haren is actually pretty bad to cycle through, even if you avoid the Shared Space. Even drivers don't like it, and there's rat-running through the back streets (the only place in NL where I've found that yet).

Where do you think I will find a good example of Shared Space ? I've gone through a lot of shared space areas, but I've yet to find one which I actually liked to cycle through.

Anonymous said...

Councillors in Leighton Buzzard where I live in the UK have suddenly become very enthusiastic about shared space for our High St. A very wide old fashioned place currently largely given over to car parking except on Market days when cars are banned.

I'm not at all sure it'll work or is even a good idea. I'd much rather ban cars altogether.

I'm trying to collect the best evidence about shared space so that any opposition can be evidence based.

This article is a good start. Is there more?

Nick said...

David, I know you put a lot of emphasis in this blog on the importance of "subjective safety", so your criticisms of shared space make perfect space. One of the basic principles of shared space, as far as I understand it, however, is that the sense of danger, of uncertainty, is what makes people pay attention to their surroundings and engage with each other in a courteous way. Strictly theory, perhaps, but what it means to imply is that the naïve sense of safety we experience in segregation is not, in fact, true safety (thus, traffic deaths).

Many pedestrian zones around the world are better examples of shared space than actual "shared space" areas because people have the right and freedom to walk wherever they please rather than following the strict routes determined by traffic engineers. Cyclists often use spaces like these and generally behave, as far as I have observed, the way Monderman expects. These "shared spaces" make for much more pleasant environments for the person on foot, if not necessarily for the cyclist. My former university campus in Victoria, BC, was a shared space for cyclists and pedestrians and a wonderful place to be. We even tolerated the occasional presence of delivery vehicles or "Campus Safety" vans.

What these spaces lack, of course, are motor vehicles which, because of their size and speed, are the greatest threat to the success of shared space (or any space). (Delivery vehicles in pedestrian zones tend to behave, though, don't they?)

The sense of danger that is particularly acute around motor vehicles is precisely what led to the invention of segregation in the first place, i.e. forbidding people to walk in the roadway. So I think shared space, which, as a basic principle for restoring people's right to use public commons, is a good idea, would only be successful without motor vehicles.

Robert said...

Shared space is neither the right solution every time, nor will it work if badly designed, but that doesn't mean it doesn't work. There is a shared space in Preetz in North Germany that I have used many times both as a cyclist and a pedestrian. However, the local authority did a lot more than just removing the kerbs on (what was) a through-route. To reduce the traffic in the area they diverted all motorised traffic that didn't need to be there around outside. For those vehicles that can enter the area the speed limit is 20km/h. The entire surface is cobbled, which not only changes the look and feel of the area to drivers, but also makes it difficult to cycle too fast (yet it remains quicker than taking the on-carriageway route). Street furniture and a water feature have been used to create a contiguous pedestrian-only area without making pedestrians feel they are confined to a footway. Although it just looks like a pleasant town centre (and it is very pleasant), it's clear a lot of thought has gone into the engineering. In the video at I take a trip through it on my bike, and then make the journey between the same two points by car. The bike wins.

David Hembrow said...

Robert, if they've removed the through traffic then it's not really an example of shared space. Instead you have an example of unravelling of the routes taken by cyclists and motorists to reduce the frequency of conflict between the modes.

Robert said...

I probably haven't explained it clearly, but it is tricky summarising what has been done in Preetz in a blog comment. They haven't completely removed the through traffic, what they've done is throttled motorised traffic so it cannot dominate the shared area. Most traffic goes down Güterstraße and Am altern Amtsgericht, but there's a smaller flow of motorised vehicles travelling down the parallel route of Bahnhofstraße and into Kirchenstraße (seen in my video), some of which stops off in Markt (also in my video). Bahnhofstraße and the far end of Markt have segregated cycle lanes, but in the shared area there are no road markings whatsoever and the space outside the pedestrian-only refuges is shared equally. It's a combination of techniques.

David Hembrow said...

Robert, you say it is "shared equally" but you also say that through traffic is "throttled" and that there is a "smaller flow" because most traffic goes elsewhere.

Your streets may well be very pleasant but this sounds like it is a feature of the removal of the motor vehicles. Anywhere is better if you get rid of cars. Even the autobahn would be quite pleasant to cycle along if it were made into a one way system with fewer cars and lower speed limits.

Incidentally, some of the streets in Assen have been transformed in a similar way to what you describe. i.e. not "shared space" but a great reduction in the number of cars. You can read a blog post about it here.

It would be a mistake to refer to this as a "shared space" scheme because, just as in your street, its success is a function of the cars having been removed. There are more posts here

Robert said...

I agree absolutely that the reason for Preetz town centre being pleasant is the removal of a significant proportion of the motorised traffic. No motorised traffic would be nicer still, but I can see that that wouldn't be practical for various reasons. I wonder if what has happened here is that town planners from outside Holland have looked at Monderman's ideas and concluded that they work nicely but only if you cut back on the motorised vehicles, whereas the Dutch have taken his ideas and if anything gone in the opposite direction with regard to motorised traffic (I have heard talk of the Dutch considering applying his idea to major junctions)? Thus my concept of a shared space is different from yours (and indeed Monderman's); same name, same physical features, but a different traffic spectrum. I have to say the idea of making major junctions shared spaced seemed dubious to me.

David Hembrow said...

Robert, that's all quite true but with one exception. There are to the best of my knowledge no new Shared Space schemes in planning. There are some schemes which have adopted the architectural ideas, which is fine, but they're removing through traffic so it's not shared space. No sensible person thinks any longer that it's really a good idea to put cyclists and pedestrians in the same space as a lot of motor traffic.

It was, thankfully, a passing fad.
Those examples that remain date from the start of this century and all of them that I'm aware of have been retrofitted with features which had been removed. i.e. there are a lot more signs now telling people how to behave and they've installed pedestrian crossings because otherwise pedestrians can't cross the road.

However, you need to be careful because these ideas have now become an export. While it's a dead idea in NL, other countries are taking it up and architects with money signs in their eyes are claiming that it's a great success in the Netherlands.

Shared Space was nothing more than an example of "the emperor's new clothes".

Robert said...

If you have the time I would appreciate your comments on this video: It was recently linked to on a cycling forum independently of our conversation.

David Hembrow said...

Robert, that video (of Poynton) is yet another in a long line of people who stand to gain from Shared Space promoting it. There's nothing new there, no reason to expect that it really will work out any better than it has elsewhere.

What proponents of Shared Space seem to forget is that traffic lights were invented to solve a problem. The problem was the behaviour of people when they were expected to share space in areas which were never designed to cope with cars.

Returning to infrastructure which resembles the time before cars only works if you also remove the cars.

Robert said...

Thanks for taking a look. The junction does appear to work, though we're not told if it is handling the same traffic throughput. Assuming it is, my impression of why this works is primarily because it consists of two single-lane roundabouts. Together they create a traffic flow that is smoother and has a lower maximum speed. That makes it easier for pedestrians to use what are effectively zebra crossings. The low traffic speed and the single lanes make it easier for cyclists too. The special paving does make the whole thing look a lot less grim, but to me it's not really a shared space at all; I wouldn't attempt to walk across the roundabouts. I find it interesting you didn't say "Ah, but that's not Shared Space" because it tends to confirm my feeling that apart from architectural features my idea of Shared Space is not the same as Monderman's.

I do have a hatred of junctions such as how Poynton used to be. There's a junction not far from my house with multiple lanes of fast moving traffic that once in a blue moon screech to a halt for a red light and allows pedestrians to get half way across the road. As a cyclist I find it unusable. I prefer the approach taken at Poynton, whatever they choose to call it.

David Hembrow said...

Robert, I don't understand why you persist with this. Shared Space is a failed idea. It has been shown repeatedly not to work well, yet its advocates keep trying to claim that every new example is better than every old example.

Now whether the new situation at Poynton is better than the old is only half the story. They could well have chosen a better solution than that which they did.

The video that you refer to shows you what the maker of the video wanted you to see. It tells a story which flatters the view that it is a good solution for Poynton, made almost immediately after the new situation was revealed, while it was new to everyone using it and before any problems had shown themselves. It's propaganda. Come back in five years and see if people still like what has been done.

Robert said...

Why do I persist? Because I'm baffled, and I know I'm not the only one. The junction at Poynton is not a space that is shared. It is largely a conventional junction that has some nice block-work. Similarly the photos shown in your blog article show a conventional high street with some nice block-work. What neither of these are is a space that is shared, because they have large no-go areas for pedestrians. Yet for some reason they are called Shared Spaces. What would I expect of them? Well I would expect them to work exactly the same as the same layout without the block-work. If the layout didn't work before, it wont work any better once people have become familiar with the changed appearance. That is exactly what you are saying.

The arrangement at Preetz is truly a space that is shared, in that pedestrians, cars, cyclists, and everyone else have a large area that they can criss-cross anyhow they like (but slowly). It's been there for a lot longer than five years and it continues to work nicely. I've seen similar areas in my home city that have been there fifteen or so years, and they too work nicely. Moreover they are working in a way that is as Shared Space has been described to me. Yet despite the fact that they are spaces that are shared, you say they are not Shared Space. Having seen Poynton and your own example, I can understand why you say that.

So outside of Holland we have two different concepts, both known as Shared Space. Check back in the comments and you'll see others referring to marketplaces like that at Preetz as Shared Space. It's like the word "pants" means different things to an American and to a Brit, but worse because one us is using the word to mean both trousers and underwear, which of course have different functions even though they have things in common. This gives me a communication problem when I'm talking to people. So let me turn this around, and ask you if there is term for areas such as Preetz marketplace? I have no problem using a Dutch word, providing it isn't conventionally translated into something that has a more limited meaning that doesn't work for a commercial area (so woonerf, for example, wont do).

BTW, in giving your study tours you are going to possibly unknowingly hit the same communication problem. You might say "pants", and the British person may have a pair of trousers in mind, or they might have a pair of underpants in mind.

David Hembrow said...

Robert, my reaction to Poynton or Haren is much like yours. Get past the new paving styles and what you have in these places is a completely average street layout on which the vulnerable have to keep clear of motor vehicles.

"Shared Spaces" are in fact spaces in which "might is right". Nothing is truly shared on streets like this. However, this concept is being sold to the world with the name "Shared Space" and a great deal of flossy language is used to try to make it sound like something its not.

Note that I use quotes and capital letters when talking about "Shared Space". This is not because I think it's a particularly descriptive name, because as you point out, these spaces are not truly shared. However, that is what they are called by those who promote this type of design.

I describe it as being like the fairytale of "the emperor's new clothes" because this is precisely what it is like. We're being asked to believe that something which patently cannot work is a success. Having failed to prove this to be true in the Netherlands, the people pushing it have moved on to other places.

Now I know that there exist many spaces throughout the world where motor vehicles are not segregated, but they are limited (as in Preetz or here in Assen) and where "sharing" works quite well in large part as a result of the control over motor vehicles. However, while you might see spaces like this to be shared more equally than a "Shared Space", please do not refer to them by the name used for the concept which doesn't work. i.e. don't call them "Shared Space" because doing so just causes more confusion.

I find it extremely unhelpful to confuse places which work naturally because they do not have masses of motor vehicles piling through them, or spaces which work because motor vehicles are mainly excluded, with the architects wet dream of a space where they can have lots and lots of motor vehicles and also lots and lots of pedestrians and cyclists without any problems.

That is the fiction which my blog post seeks to point out to the world. "Shared Space" is basically a fraud. I see it as an effective way of convincing local authorities to part with a considerable sum of money in order to achieve very little, and therefore good for the architects who promote such designs. However, I don't see it as being at all good for cyclists. Any place which becomes "Shared Space" could have been made into something better.

Robert said...

So we are in fact in agreement! What you didn't answer is what is the correct term for a space like Preetz so I can stop using the tainted term "Shared Space". I could coin my own phrase (Market space? Co-operative space?), but if a phrase or word already exists then I would rather use it.

David Hembrow said...

Robert, there's not really an accepted term for such a centre in English. Perhaps I should invent one (in my next blog post). The Dutch might refer to it as autoluwte. i.e. "low cars". I tend to refer to the general principle with regard to cycling as segregation without cycle-paths, as that's what is achieved. The cars are (mostly) removed and cycling and walking becomes far more pleasant as a result.

Robert said...

I've been following links and playing with the language switch on Wikipedia. It seems the term we want is:

English: Living Street
Dutch: Erf
German: Verkehrsberuhigter Bereich

It even has a tolerably consistent road sign. How does that sound to you?

My only criticism is that a market place isn't really a street, but I I can live with that.

David Hembrow said...

Robert, unfortunately "Living Street" is also used by the Shared Space people to refer to the same idea. It's not shared, and people are too busy running out of the way from motor vehicles to want to live there, but they've already taken all the good names.

I propose "Nearly Car-Free". It's a little cumbersome, but it's descriptive. Hopefully this won't be hijacked by people who are addicted to putting as many cars as possible into so many places as possible.

I've made a video which will give you a flavour of what the "Nearly Car-Free" areas in the centre of Assen look like.

Ian Perry (Cardiff, UK) said...

Looking at the map showing collisions. The greatest concentration of collisions is on Vondellaan, where 6 collisions have occurred outside the Police Station.

"Shared Space", like "Sustainable Safety" has not claimed to eliminate collisions, but to reduce their severity - by slowing motorised traffic.

To point at a map showing that there have been collisions proves nothing when you don't show the collisions that occurred before the streets was changed, or their severity.

This blog is also written from the point of view of a cyclist, using Rijksstraatweg as a transport corridor, cycling north-south, rather than from the point of view of someone who is visiting a number of the shops on the eastern and western sides of the street, necessitating crossings.

One of the problems of Dutch cycle paths along shopping streets is that they can increase the difficulty of crossing the street.

David Hembrow said...

Ian, the people who have the greatest problems in the shared space of Haren are not those using it as a corridor, whether cycling or in a motor vehicle, but those trying to cross the road. This is a problem not only with Haren but also with other shared spaces, such as an example which I have made a video of in Assen (compare with far easier conditions for crossing the road in a street which is no longer shared space).

It is through traffic which causes the problems for people crossing the road, not cycle-paths. Motor vehicles cause far greater problems for pedestrians than do cycles.

That's why the survey which was carried out a few years ago was of people walking in the shared space of Haren area and trying to do things such as cross the road, enter the main street from a side-street by bicycle etc. It's also why groups representing people with disabilities have a problem with shared space.

Shared space also caused pavement cycling. The area is in principle shared by all modes, but in reality the edges end up being used by pedestrians and cyclists combined, causing more stress for pedestrians.

I would be very surprised if the accident record in Haren were not worse before the rework because the situation in Haren before was extremely bad.

They didn't make one change at a time, but many changes at the same time. Before the changes, the speed limit was higher and the town had antiquated infrastructure.

That is why the correct comparison is not with the previous situation, which we know was bad, but with what the centre of Haren could have been if it had not been made into a shared space.

There are many peaceful town centres in the Netherlands where motorists have not been given the right to rule by force due to shared space dogma. These have better accident records than do shared space centres. For instance, the city centre streets of Assen (much larger than Haren and once much busier) is featured here. This is a far more successful transformation, removing almost all motor vehicles along with their associated unpleasantness and danger.

Unknown said...

I can agree that feeling safe trough `shared space` is not good enough. For the case of Haren and Drachten the routes are mainroutes to cross the towns. So the traffic density including trucks and not having the idea being safe anywhere for all kinds of traffic is uncomforable. Especially when there are much obstructions in sight and unclear crossings.
Even for cars it`s horrible. Multidirectional movements of all kind. Very hard to drive even with low speed.
Pedestrians that have no clear crossway and with high traffic (constant flow of cars) pretty hard to cross the road.
So for the elder quite uncomfortable.

I now totaly agree with David. It doesn`t work for at least the cases Drachten en Haren. It is not comfortable to travel through these places by car/bike or as pedestrian.
That`s because there is to much heavy traffic (because of being a mainroad through the places).

Ivaiovitx said...

I think the predominant mood here is "we can have the cake and eat it". What's the alternative? Segregation? Does that make the street more agreeable, more livable, more safe?

Traffic IS a problem in all kinds of streets, even in shared spaces. When you have to share a space with bigger bulky things that outnumber you you will always be in pain, but at leat they are not given the conceptual right of way as in segregation. A green light switches off the brain and asserts you not to look around. This is true for cars, for bicycles and for pedestrians -- because it is true for _people_.

David Hembrow said...

Ivaiovitx: Does segregation make the streets move agreeable, more livable and safer ? Yes of course it does. Just look at a street which used to be a shared space but from which motor vehicles have now been excluded. A far more pleasant place to be than a shared space in the same city just a few hundred metres away.

Forget about the idea of conceptionally having equal rights, because it simply doesn't work out that way. It might be nice to imagine that everyone would behave in a rational way, but in practice those with the power (i.e. in a motor vehicle) do not respect the rights of those who are vulnerable. The experiment has been done in many towns now, in the Netherlands and in other countries, and the results are in. Shared Spaces are amongst the most dangerous junctions in the Netherlands, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.