Shared space

Shared space
New Road, Brighton - shared space scheme.

Shared space is an urban design concept aimed at integrated use of public spaces. It encourages traffic engineers, urban planners and experts from other fields to consult with users of public space when planning and designing streets and squares in both built and non-built environments. The concept shares some characteristics with Living streets.

Shared space removes the traditional segregation of motor vehicles, pedestrians and other road users. Conventional road priority management systems and devices such as kerbs, lines, signs and signals are replaced with an integrated, people-oriented understanding of public space, such that walking, cycling, shopping and driving cars become integrated activities.



The term 'shared space' was used by Tim Pharoah to describe informal street layouts with no traffic demarcation (see for example "Traffic Calming Guidelines" published by Devon County Council, 1991). The term has since been more widely applied to similar design concepts for main streets, intersections and squares, especially by Ben Hamilton-Baillie since the preparation of a European co-operation project in 2003.[1] The shared space concept has been associated strongly with the work of Hans Monderman,[2] based on the observation that individuals' behaviour in traffic is more positively affected by the built environment of the public space than it is by conventional traffic control devices and regulations.[1]

The goal of shared space is an improvement in road safety, encouraging negotiation of shared areas at appropriate speeds and with due consideration for the other users, using simple rules like giving way to the right. The term shared space should probably not be too closely defined, since there is wide scope for varying the design concept. For example, very similar street design projects to those carried out by Monderman were carried out in Chambery (France) by Michel Deronzier from the 1980s. He preferred the term pedestrian priority, but this was nevertheless achieved with a design philosophy that mirrored that of Hans Monderman.

This European Shared Space project (part of the Interreg IIIB-North Sea programme) between 2004 and 2008 developed new policies and methods for the design of public spaces with streets. Hans Monderman was the head of the project's "expert team" prior to his death in 2008.[3]


Many streets in Tokyo are shared, though not as a matter of philosophy.


Safety, congestion, economic vitality and community severance can be effectively tackled in streets and other public spaces if they are designed and managed to allow traffic to be fully integrated with other human activity, not separated from it. A major characteristic of a street designed to this philosophy is the absence of traditional road markings, signs, traffic signals and the distinction between "road" and "pavement". User behaviour becomes influenced and controlled by natural human interactions rather than by artificial regulation.[3]

One of the principles behind the scheme, which is mentioned in an article about the increasing interest in such schemes in Europe, from the German magazine Der Spiegel, is that road rules strip motorists of the ability to be considerate. Monderman is quoted as saying: "We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behaviour, ...The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles." [4] Another source attributes the following to Monderman: "When you don't exactly know who has right of way, you tend to seek eye contact with other road users... You automatically reduce your speed, you have contact with other people and you take greater care."[5] In the same report the mayor of Bohmte, a town implementing such a scheme, is quoted as saying "We don't want the cars alone to have precedence, we want to try and make the area pleasant for everybody."

The shared space philosophy distinguishes between the fine-meshed slow network, and the larger-meshed fast network. The slow network, which is the subject of the shared space treatment, is characterised as the street network which make public space vital and accessible. On the slow network motor traffic is welcomed as a guest, but has to adapt to certain social norms of behaviour. The layout of the road must make this clear. The fast or supra traffic network, which allows traffic to reach destinations quickly, and which is designed using traditional traffic engineering methodologies, is essential if the slow network is to function properly.[6]

A reason for the apparent paradox that reduced regulation leads to safer roads may be found by studying the risk compensation effect. Shared Space describe the effect:[6]

Shared Space is successful because the perception of risk may be a means or even a prerequisite for increasing objective safety. Because when a situation feels unsafe, people are more alert and there are fewer accidents.

In answer to a direct question about the role of local legislation, a member of the Shared Space Expert Team replied: "To understand how shared space works, it is important to move away from reliance on 'rights' and laws, and to recognize the potential for conventions and protocols ... Such conventions and protocols evolve rapidly and are very effective if the state does not intervene through regulation."[7]

Road rules, particularly those concerned with priorities at unsigned junctions, vary in different jurisdictions, and thus may support or hinder shared space proposals.


There are certain reservations about the practicality of the shared space philosophy. In a report from the Associated Press it was commented that traditionalists in town planning departments say the schemes rob the motorists of vital information, and reported that a spokesman for Royal National Institute of Blind People criticised the removal of familiar features such as railings, kerbs and barriers.[8]

Shared surfaces, which are generally used in shared space schemes, can cause concern for the blind and partially sighted who cannot visually negotiate their way with other road users, as the lack of separation implicit in these features has also removed their safe space.[9] The UK's Guide Dogs for the Blind Associations "Say No to Shared Streets" campaign has the support of more than thirty other disability organisations.[10] There have been similar concerns raised by other groups representing some of the more vulnerable members of society, including Leonard Cheshire Disability, the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and Mencap, who have noted problems when negotiating a route with motor vehicle users, leading them to challenge its fundamental premise.[11]

In New Zealand, concerns about such limitations of the shared space concept have led, in cooperation with disability organisations, to the introduction of vehicle- and obstruction free corridors ("accessible zones") along the building lines (i.e. in the areas where footpaths would normally be located), to provide a safe route in the shared spaces being introduced.[12]

The November 2007 issue of the Fietsersbond (Dutch Cyclists Union) newsletter criticises shared space schemes as encouraging the bullying of cyclists by motorists, giving examples of people who feel less safe as a result.[citation needed] The Dutch Fiets Beraad has also demonstrated some ambivalence over shared space schemes, describing some benefits but also some drawbacks for the less assertive cyclist.[13] Fiets Beraad has noted that shared space has decreased car speeds but that "[p]art of the cyclists does not dare demand the right of way. They dismount and wait for the right of way to be clearly given. Then they walk or ride to the other side. A problem may be that halfway across cyclists are met by cars from the other direction having to be kind enough to yield informally. Due to low speeds and the defensive behaviour of these cyclists this crossing strategy need not be unsafe by itself, but it most certainly is not convenient."

Monderman has stated that these objections are more a matter of communication than design, stressing the importance of consulting such people during the design stage.[14]

European "Shared Space" project

The Shared Space project is sponsored by the European Commission to develop methods and policies for tackling road safety, community severance and congestion issues, and for enhancing economic vitality in streets and public spaces.[3]

By country

Numerous towns and cities around the world have implemented schemes with elements based on the shared space principles.


Bendigo, Victoria, plans (as of October 2007) to implement shared space in its city centre.[15]


Bohmte introduced a shared space road system in September 2007. One of project's goals was to improve road safety in the town.[16]


Makkinga, a town in the Netherlands, has no road markings and no signs giving an order or direction signs visible in the streets. There is a traffic sign at the entrance to the town which reads "Verkeersbordvrij", meaning "free of traffic signs". Parking meters and stopping restrictions are also absent.[4] Drachten is another pioneer town for such schemes. Accident figures at one junction where traffic lights were removed have dropped from thirty-six in the four years prior to the introduction of the scheme to two in the two years following it.[17] Only three of the original fifteen sets of traffic lights remain. Tailbacks (traffic jams) are now almost unheard of at the town's main junction, which handles about 22,000 cars a day.[18] See also Woonerf

New Zealand

Several of Auckland's streets are currently being turned into shared spaces.[19] These include Elliot and Darby Streets,[20] Lorne street, the Fort street areas, all near Queen Street, Auckland and Federal Street by the Skytower. However, Auckland's first shared space is Wairepo Swamp Walk,[21] completed mid 2010. Wairepo Swamp Walk is one of a number of transport infrastructure projects improving transport services around Eden Park as part of the 2011 World Cup.


Since the zebra crossings and traffic signs were replaced with a spacious fountain, benches and other street furniture, the Skvallertorget square in Norrköping has experienced no accidents, mean traffic speeds have dropped from 21 to 16 km/h (13 to 10 mph) and liveability has increased.[22]

United Kingdom

In Seven Dials, London the road surface has been re-laid to remove the distinction between the roadway and the footway and kerbs have been lowered to encourage people to wander across the street.[17] A scheme implemented in London's Kensington High Street, dubbed naked streets in the press – reflecting the removal of markings, signage and pedestrian barriers – has yielded significant and sustained reductions in injuries to pedestrians. It is reported that, based on two years of 'before and after' monitoring, casualties fell from 71 in the period before the street was remodelled to 40 afterwards – a drop of 43%.[23]

Brighton City Council transformed the whole of New Road, adjacent to the Royal Pavilion, into a fully shared space designed by Landscape Projects and Gehl Architects, with no delineation of the carriageway except for subtle changes in materials. The route for vehicles along New Road is only suggested through the location of street furniture, such as public seating and street lights. The re-opening of the street has led to a 93% reduction in motor vehicle trips (12,000 fewer per day) and lower speeds (to around 10 MPH), alongside an increase in cyclist and pedestrian usage (93% and 162%, respectively).[24][25]

In spring 2008, shared space was introduced in Ashford, Kent. The award-winning scheme, delivered by lead designers Whitelaw Turkington Landscape Architects, replaced a section of Ashford’s former four lane ring road with two-way streets on which drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have equal priority. Unnecessary street furniture, road markings and traffic lights have been removed and the speed limit cut to 20 mph.[26] The scheme has vastly improved safety records since it opened. Between November 2008 and January 2011, there have been four road casualties there, resulting from the six reported accidents.[27] Following the success of the Ashford scheme, other UK local councils are planning to use the same approach; these include Southend-on-Sea, Staines, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hereford and Edinburgh.[28]

Another proposed scheme in London is the redevelopment of Exhibition Road which is home to a number of world-class institutions. The local authority say they want the area to be a comfortable and attractive place in which to live, work and visit. They plan to use shared space principles to integrate vehicle and foot traffic, whilst preserving the road's important function as a vital transport link serving people from the whole surrounding area.[29] There have also been trials in Ipswich, with shared space being a key feature of the design of the new Ravenswood community being built on the site of the former Ipswich Airport.[30]

United States

In West Palm Beach, Florida planners are reported to have removed traffic signals and road markings and brought pedestrians into much closer contact with cars. The result has been slower traffic, fewer accidents, and shorter trip times.[31]

See also


  1. ^ a b Ben Hamilton-Baillie. "What is Shared Space?" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  2. ^ Damian Arnold (2007-11-15). "UK traffic engineers lack skills for shared-space". New Civil Engineer. Retrieved 2008-02-01. 
  3. ^ a b c "Shared Space". Shared Space Institute. "Booklets published by the EU partnership." 
  4. ^ a b Matthias Schulz (2006-11-16). "European Cities Do Away with Traffic Signs". Spiegel Online.,1518,448747,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  5. ^ "European Towns Remove Traffic Signs to Make Streets Safer". Deutsche Welle. 2006-08-27.,2144,2143663,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  6. ^ a b "Shared Space: Room for everyone: A new vision for public spaces" (PDF). Shared Space (A European co-operation project). June 2005. 
  7. ^ Ben Hamilton-Baillie (2007-03-02). "Road priority conventions - reply". Forum. Shared Space. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  8. ^ The Associated Press (2006-11-21). "In Europe, less is more when it comes to road signs". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-10-16. 
  9. ^ Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. "What's the Problem". Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  10. ^ "'Shared street' problem for blind". BBC. 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2010-12-04. 
  11. ^ Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. "Shared Surfaces Campaign Report - "Stop shared surfaces, keep our pavements"" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-09-27. [dead link]
  12. ^ "Elliot Street - Accessibility". Auckland City Council. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  13. ^ Shared-space-intersection De Kaden
  14. ^ Hamilton Baillie website. "Shared Space - the alternative approach to calming traffic" (pdf). Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  15. ^ "Walkers first on naked streets". The Sydney Morning Herald. 2007-10-18. 
  16. ^ Catherine Bosley (2007-09-11). "Town ditches traffic lights to cut accidents". Reuters. Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  17. ^ a b Ben Webster (2007-01-22). "'Naked' streets are safer, say Tories: Traffic lights and signs could vanish Accidents will fall, study claims". London: The Times. 
  18. ^ David Millward eewaa (2006-11-04). "Is this the end of the road for traffic lights?". London: The Daily Telegraph. 
  19. ^ Auckland City Council
  20. ^ Auckland City Council
  21. ^ City Scene, Auckland City Council
  22. ^ "No accidents after road conversion in Norrköpping". Shared Space. 2007. 
  23. ^ Gould, Mark (2006-04-12). "Life on the open road". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  24. ^ "New Road City Centre Shared Space, Brighton (December 2007)". Scheme of the Month: January 2008. Cycling England. December 2007. 
  25. ^ "New street designs are leaving blind people with the prospect of teaching their guide dogs new tricks.". NCE magazine. 2007-12-31. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  26. ^ "Ringing the Changes: The Ashford Ring Road Project Kent County Council". Royal Town Planning Institute. 2010-01-27. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  27. ^ "Just six accidents since Shared Space". Kent Online (KM Group). 2011-01-20. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  28. ^ "Winning streak continues for Ashford shared space scheme". Grontmij. 2009-10-05. Retrieved 2011-01-27. 
  29. ^ "Exhibition Road". The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. 
  30. ^ "Planning Application 05/00285/REM, Planning Layout" (PDF). 2005-02-18. Retrieved 2007-03-04. 
  31. ^ *McNichol, Tom (December 2004). "Roads Gone Wild". Wired (12.12). Retrieved 2006-04-26. 

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