Shared space scheme ‘proves critics wrong’

11.15 | 28 January 2011 | | 4 comments

Despite fears for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists on a controversial shared space in Ashford, there have been just six accidents since it opened in 2008.

The shared space project transformed Ashford’s 1970s ring road into two-way streets in which drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have equal priority. The scheme, covering a 1km stretch of the old ring road, was implemented by Kent County Council.

Street furniture, road markings and traffic lights were removed and the speed limit cut to 20mph. Road surfaces were replaced with high-quality materials, wider footpaths and low kerbs, to create a distinctive tree-lined streetscape.

The £15.6m scheme attracted criticism from groups representing blind people and other road users, but most publically Jeremy Clarkson, who declared: “Someone is going to die, you idiots.”

Kent Police statistics reveal that there has been just one serious collision on the shared space, where a pedestrian sustained a broken ankle.

Judith Armitt, managing director for Ashford’s Future, said: “We are extremely proud that shared space has succeeded in driving down the number of accidents and cutting traffic speeds around the town centre. It has also put the town on the map and other towns are considering following our lead.”

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    There are no figures for the displacement of traffic from this calmed area onto other less suitable streets, nor for the casualty record nearby, have the crashes just migrated elsewhere?

    Steve Jarrett, Norfolk
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    At an estimated £2 million per fatality (Department for Transport. 2009. Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2008 Annual Report – ) it’ll pay for itself in eight years if it stops one fatality per year – and that’s not even factoring in serious injuries. Think you’re right about schemes like this being difficult to finance in the current financial circumstances but with the cost of deaths and injuries so high, ways should be found!

    Majeed, Kingston upon Thames
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    It would be very interesting to see the casualty figures for the same stretch before the scheme was introduced.

    Alan, Durham
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    £15.6m for a 1km stretch. Hardly value for money is it? And what reduction in KSI’s has this substantial investment produced? While it’s an interesting concept is this really a scheme that can be replicated else where when funding is so scarce?

    Dave, Leeds
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