Shared Space? Not in Freshford
I HAVE tried and failed to find a village where the Shared Space concept has been used to help residents cope with their traffic problems. All I can find is town and city applications, mainly in Holland.
The concept essentially requires the removal of traffic controls and pavements to force motorists to interact with pedestrian and other users as having equals rights.
It is rather like what happens when a junction controlled by traffic lights has a lights failure. Drivers and others manage, by easing forward and using a bit of give and take and eye contact. It even seems that the traffic flow is better when the lights are NOT in operation. Of course this is a temporary effect.
I have found some information on Hans Monderman the founder of the theory. Here is a quote from an article:
"For decades, traffic engineer Hans Monderman had a hair-raising way of showing off his handiwork to anyone who took the trouble to visit his native northern Dutch province of Friesland. He would walk backward, arms folded, into the flow of traffic, and without horn-honking or expletives, drivers would slow or stop to let him safely cross to the other side. Monderman's stunt was an act of faith in the concept of "shared space," a radical street-design principle he quietly pioneered in more than 120 projects across Friesland. By the time he died of cancer last month, Monderman's local lessons had gone global: his notion of shared space has become a buzzword for urban designers all over the world. Ben Hamilton-Baillie, a British traffic and urban-design consultant, says Monderman's legacy goes beyond even that: "Hans took a very mundane profession and made it explore much wider political and social questions about what public space and public life are all about."
If Hans Monderman had been doing this for decades may I suggest that the local motorists were used to his eccentric behaviour? And of course, actually the location is where his ideas have been used to alter the road traffic behaviour.
It is obvious that Mr Monderman believes that we should entrust our bodily safety to the motorist, well at least where the road landscape has been altered according to his principles of shared Space. Well, I have not visited Holland, but in the UK we are advised by the police to avoid eye contact with other motorists as it could result in a road rage incident. The philosphy assumes that people are able to see each other's eyes, pity the blind or partially sighted pedestrian. The philsophy assumes that there will be street lighting so road users are able to see each other's eyes as well! My impression of the responsibility of other road users for their behaviour is not very high as it is based on their level of skill and perception. We should not place too much responsibility on the motorist.
Motor Vehicles and Their Control
The reality is that a motor vehicle is a large heavy moving machine that could quite easly injure and kill anyone it hits. The vehicle is controlled by a person using their hands and feet in coordination and requires good eyesight and a certain amount of agility. A moving vehicle will only stop when the brakes are applied or when it hits something. A vehicle takes time to stop and will cover a distance before it stops which is proportional to its weight and speed and condition of the road surface. Whilst these facts are obvious to adults they are not to children, and children must be brought up to take great care when crossing a road. Where a road does not have a pavement the child is at great risk. Children can become distracted and dash into the road, they are also, not so well coordinated in their movements. Older people also lose some of the awareness of danger and may stumble on poorly maintained pavements and road surfaces.
As for being motorists being considerate to each other let alone pedestrians and other road users one only has to review the rise of legislation to protect motorists from each other and others to realise that Mr Monderman's philosophy may not be transferable to the UK. The most recent legislation being to deter motorists from using mobile phones whilst they drive. And as for speed limits? As a regular user of the M4 (once a week) in the evening between Chippenham and Swindon I invariably keep to the speed limit (well most of the time!) and recently have reduced my speed to 55 mph to save fuel. When I used to drive at a steady speed of 70mph I used to overtake about two dozen cars or so a year! This meant that over that 13 mile or so distance there were virtually no cars travelling below 70mph. I often see vehicles with only one headlamp and since I am not overtaking these vehicles they are travelling faster than I am, and by the speed they ovetake me at least 75mph, whatever the weather. The M4 has had several fatal accidents over the years -it was closed last week. The introduction of speed cameras signs on the Swindon stretch only worked as a deterrence for a while, until motorists realised the cameras are not actually there.
Traffic Problem: the Documentation
The British exponent of the Shared Space theory is Ben Hamilton-Baille (BHB) and my message to him is NO I don't trust the British motorist. I am not charging £225 plus VAT for a half day consultation like BHB. But unlike BHB I have produced a complete photographic survey of every road junction in Freshford. I have also produced video films of every route in to and out of Freshford. These documents have been published here: Road Junction Photos and here: Videos of Roads and as far as I know are the only complete record of its type of a village carried out in the UK. In spite of the cost of the BHB consultants report I read of a group of residents who are considering ideas for the places where something might be done. Which sounds like BHB didn't come up with the ideas? I would have thought that BANES Highways authority would have come up with solutions, if there are any, so the question is are there traffic problems anyway?
Is There actually a Traffic Problem in Freshford?
Residents of Freshford should consider the observations below which are based on the video and photographic data and common sense.
- we do not have a failure of the road infrastructure in Freshford to carry traffic: it works
congestion is caused by parents' vehicles by Freshford Primary School. There is no parking off road for this traffic. A little reduction may be possible, but probably several parents live quite a way from the school. There are flashing warning lights by the school so motorists should be aware of the danger.
- Unlike Shared Space experiments which tend to be town centre based Freshford is on a through route to Bath and towns to the East. This cannot be altered.
- With the rise of SATNAV devices more traffic IS travelling through Freshford. this cannot be dealt with except possibly, and only possibly, by newly designed ROAD SIGNS
- Unlike settlements where Shared Space is employed Freshford is not subject to traffic controls anyway, except for the 30 mph and newly introduced 20 mph signs.
- Successful schemes in Holland or elsewhere are not necessariy tansportable to the UK
- So apart from where there are pavements residents have no choice but to share the roads with motorists anyway, so why employ BHB and what have they suggested? We have had nothing to read so far, except remove pavements.
- If vehicles do not like how long it takes them to get through Freshford they should use the main roads
Suggestions for Improving Pedestrian Safety
The whole area should be a Green Lanes area with 20 mph and 30 mph limits enclosing the whole village and surrounding hamlets -We won't get that because the government (Labour)hasn't established any Green Lanes anywhere so far.
- Restore the pavement kerbstones to the proper three inch height. This provides a measure of protection for pedestrians
- Widen the pavement in New Road which is little wider than a footpath at present -my grandson fell in front of MY car a few years ago
- Add pavements where there are none at present
- Cut back hedging where it encroaches on footways and roads and charge residents who don't look after their own hedges, if the parish has to carry out the work.
- Remove hedging where it may improve visibility
- Ensure that locals do not park on the pavement
Motorists shoud be discouraged from going through our village as much as possible. The slower their journey the more likely they will be willing to use the A36 or the A363.
The police should take action against those motorists who break the 6 foot 6 inch restriction.
This is a reference that includes a quote from Mr Monderman:
Nor are shared-space designs appropriate everywhere, like in major urban centers, but only in neighborhoods that meet particular criteria. Recently, a group of well-to-do parents asked him to widen the two-lane road leading to their children's school, saying it was too small to accommodate what he derisively calls "their huge cars."
He refused, saying that the fault lay not with the road, but with the cars. "They can't wait for each other to pass?" he asked. "I wouldn't interfere with the right of people to buy the car they want, but nor should the government have to solve the problems they make with their choices."
The following link has videos including a car journey with Hans Monderman. I found the sound level rather low:
We should not do anything to our village that will make the traffic flow better through Freshford. BETTER? Yes, because that would mean WORSE for the residents.