‘Shared space’ an unhelpful phrase – CIHT

09.25 | 10 January | | | 11 comments

‘Shared space’ is an unhelpful phrase that should no longer be used to describe a form of street design, a new report has concluded.

Published yesterday (9 Jan), the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT) report reviews how shared space schemes are being designed, implemented and installed across England.

The report recommends that three more specific terms: ‘pedestrian prioritised streets’, ‘informal streets’ and ‘enhanced streets’ should be used when developing future schemes.

  • ‘Pedestrian prioritised streets’ – where those on foot ‘feel that they can move freely anywhere, and where drivers should feel they are a guest’
  • ‘Informal streets’ – where formal traffic controls such as signs, markings and signals are either absent or reduced. There is a footway and carriageway, ‘but the differentiation between them is typically less than in a conventional street’
  • ‘Enhanced streets’ – where the public realm has improved and where restrictions on pedestrian movement – such as guardrail – have been removed, but where conventional traffic controls largely remain.

The CIHT review also calls on the Government to introduce legislation to allow local authorities to give pedestrians priority on certain streets and review guidance for appropriate kerb heights and tactile paving for the benefit of visually impaired people.

The document makes 15 recommendations, including: improve awareness of the need to create streets that are inclusive and accessible for all; create a framework of outcomes for the basis of street designs and conduct more detailed research into the needs of all users in such spaces.

Andreas Markides, president of CIHT, said: “This review of shared space is the result of a great deal of work by those interested in making our streets better places for everyone.

“The issues around shared space have often been controversial and the recommendations that this review has made, if put into place, will help make our streets into the safe, inclusive environments that we need them to be.

“CIHT has presented these recommendations to Government and we will be coordinating a series of follow up discussions which we will report on in due course. CIHT will play an important role in helping provide increased clarity and consistency for decision makers and highways and transportation professionals.”

Image: © Copyright Neil Owen and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


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    They installed shared space last year in Bodmin. The roads now have a red surface with rows of yellow bricks going across in places. Do the rows of bricks represent crossing places? I only know it is shared space because the local newspaper was reporting on the progress of the shared space roadworks for many months. There are no signs whatsoever. How does someone who has not read the local paper know that this is a shared space area? And how are we supposed to know who has priority? The cars appear to hurry across the yellow brick paths in fear of being held up by pedestrians. And pedestrians ignore the traffic and march across in the belief that a yellow brick path across the road must surely mean priority to pedestrians. I came across this website while googling shared space in the hope of finding out how it is supposed to work.

    Florrie, Bodmin
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Perhaps ‘Road Users have Equal Priority’ could be an alternative title although not necessarily more helpful. ‘Shared Space’ implies no demarcation, physical or otherwise, between the vehicles and the pedestrians in which case country roads and lanes are technically shared spaces as well, but the authorities have deemed it not necessary to sign them as such, apart from occasionally ‘No Footway for x metres’ in some locations perhaps.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (3) | Disagree (0)

    “Shared space unhelpful phrase” – seriously? EVERY road user is borrowing the bit of road or path they are on at any given time, and are therefore ‘sharing’ it. Can’t think of a single simpler statement than ‘shared space’!

    Ben Graham, Reading
    Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

    @ Paul Luton, London
    If you were to consider the compliance figures for 20mph and 30mph speed limits and in 20mph speed zones I don’t think you would be considering a 10mph limit.

    There is a general disregard for the importance in the speed management of traffic and media hostility to personal freedoms that suggest defiance of a speed limit isn’t a given right. After all, everyone is an expert in the influence of excess speed on road safety. Even the police and government, those who enforce and make the law have some aversion to enforcing speed limits. A soft approach is always preferred it seems.

    10mph? I think not; that is something you would need a referendum to bring about. Why not just get the regulation we already have to work by making it unacceptable to even consider defying or manipulating it. When that is acheived there will be no requirement for fancy-pants roads nobody understands.

    BillyL, Sunderland
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    This is a depressing read. The gap between professionals and reality widens. Deckchair shifting. Motorised street users are not yet at a point where they can consider the sophistication of 3 definitions/types. Better to simplify and educate. We have yet to properly establish what people want from their streets. Thanks for reading this.

    Peter Treadgold, London
    Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

    Pedestrian Priority streets and Informal streets require low levels of motor vehicle flow, typically access only, and low speed limits (10mph). Pedestrian Guardrails belong only on urban motorways. All residential/shopping streets should meet the Enhanced standard at least. Default liability would help to balance the might-is-right attitude of some drivers.

    Paul Luton, London
    Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

    So now we need to be a Chartered Highways and Transport Engineer to work out how to use a street. Get real man.

    Streets are already shared with well-established rules for their use. A little bit of public education in The Highway Code would prevent the need for this nonsense.

    BillyL, Sunderland
    Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

    I’m glad to see the ‘shared space’ bandwagon has largely stalled. The theory as kindly explained by Charles seems fine and logical but it rarely translates that way in practice. Aggressive, assertive, pushy, selfish, thoughtless, impatient, inattentive etc British drivers often press on regardless of having no traffic cues. Sorry Charles “everyone” doesn’t take due care and pedestrians treating a signless shared space road or street as their right to move about freely could be risking their own life and limb until attitudes to driving change. All vulnerable road users, not just pedestrians, should proceed with caution until that drivers mindset changes.

    About the only time pedestrians have a dominant position on the roads round here is when secondary schools finish and pupils flood out across the road FORCING drivers to stop or slow through sheer weight of numbers. Pedestrian priority works then – for about 10 minutes.

    Pat, Wales
    Agree (15) | Disagree (8)

    Re-the road shown in the photo, let’s hope no one trips over the ‘Shared Space Drive with Care’ sign, or forced to step into the c/way by the illegal ‘A’ boards on the opposite side – no sense in making it more hazardous than it already is.

    Hugh Jones
    Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

    Bob, Shared Space works best when there are no traffic cues – no kerbs, no signs, no lines, no signals and certainly no speed limits and where the whole road space is ambiguous.

    This is when it looks and is perceived as being extremely dangerous. And it is the “looking dangerous” that makes it so safe, because the looking dangerous (i.e. leaving the decision and responsibility for who has priority at every traffic interaction to be negotiated by the involved road users) forces *everyone* to take due care and road users have to devote their whole attention to the job in hand, and not to their phones or anything else.

    Every additional cue added reduces the safety, by de-facto delegating the responsibility for their actions from the road users themselves to the cues imposed. We can see this from the number of crashes that happen at traditionally cued junctions and from the fact that accidentally jumping a red light is generally seen as a more serious contravention than not progressing cautiously enough through a green light to be able to tolerate a red light jumper.

    Charles, England
    Agree (11) | Disagree (3)

    Seems to me that they are trying to make a potentially dangerous situation even more confusing and therefore dangerous. SHARED SPACE seems to apply to it all so that both pedestrians and vehicle users should beware and further that speeds should be limited to 5 or 10 mph. That would give vehicle drivers time to slow and see (that is if they gave safe space) and for pedestrians to recognise a possible dangerous situation and also avoid one.

    bob craven
    Agree (5) | Disagree (12)