Shared space is an urban design approach that minimises the segregation between modes of road user. This is done by removing features such as kerbs, road surface markings, traffic signs and traffic signals. It has been suggested that, by creating a greater sense of uncertainty and making it unclear who has priority, drivers will reduce their speed.
Shared-space schemes have frequently been opposed by organisations representing the interests of blind, partially-sighted and deaf people; they express a preference for the clear separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
Now, the Government has called for shared-space projects to be shelved, following a detailed analysis which has concluded that they are unsafe. The Department for Transport’s Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee has criticised the Government’s policy of encouraging shared space schemes and called for new projects to be halted. Additionally, they say that any existing schemes should be “the subject of detailed independent evaluation, evidence gathering and impact assessments, with the involvement of disabled people”.
Patrick Parsons’ Guildford office has been involved in a Public Realm Improvement of Cheltenham High Street and it may be helpful to consider how the concern for the visually impaired in shared-surfaces was addressed in this case.
Vulnerable users’ needs were considered in the design process. Both Gloucestershire County Council and Cheltenham Borough Council held regular meetings with representatives of these user groups and the project was designed to enhance and improve the environment specifically with vulnerable users in mind.
- Flat, smooth surfaces
- Clear margin along building fronts
- Grouping of street furniture
- Change to paving texture/colour near street furniture
- Minimise light/dark contrasts in paving (to avoid the illusion of steps)
- Ongoing communication of changes prior to and during implementation
This project demonstrates that, if the proper consultations are undertaken and protection of vulnerable users are in place, the right scheme in the right location should be permissible. Get in touch if you would like to discuss a shared space scheme.