An article in The Telegraph suggests that the introduction of more shared spaces on urban roads could improve road safety.
The article, based on an interview with the road designer Ben Hamilton-Baillie, suggests that motorists “drive more carefully when they are forced to share roads that are stripped of markings and signs with pedestrians and cyclists”.
Ben Hamilton-Baillie designed Britain’s first major shared space scheme which was introduced in 2008 on the Ashford ring road in Kent. The Telegraph quotes figures from Kent County Council which show that between January 2004 and December 2006 there were 61 collisions involving injuries on this stretch of road, but this figure dropped to 36 between December 2008 and November 2011.
Ben Hamilton-Baillie told The Telegraph: “We need to stop treating drivers like idiots. When you remove the road signs, drivers are intelligent enough to look around at their environment.
"Most of the decisions we make about our roads are based on assumptions from the 1930s but since then we have made enormous strides in psychology and how we respond to what we see. We have combined that behavioural science with traffic engineering.
"There isn’t a town or city in Britain that couldn’t benefit from a shared space scheme."
The shared space concept is not a new one. Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderland is credited with designing the first shared space in 1968 in Deft, in the Netherlands.