Shared spaces have the potential to make our streets safer and more enjoyable to be in, but it is essential that designs meet the needs of all vulnerable road users.
Shared space is a design approach that prioritises people over traffic, removes clutter from the pavement, and encourages different road users to interact with one another.
This more uncertain situation means drivers pay far more attention to their surroundings.
But, community groups representing people with disabilities and blind and partially sighted pedestrians must be included in all stages of the planning and evaluation process.
We are calling on the Government to conduct more research into how shared spaces can best be designed to improve safety for all.
We want clear and consistent national guidelines for local authorities on how shared spaces should be designed with all our needs in mind. And it needs to be a requirement that local disability groups are included in all stages of the planning and evaluation.
What’s the difference between shared spaces, shared use, and shared surfaces?
A shared space is a street or public space where vehicle movement and other activities are combined through informal social protocols, negotiation and design solutions rather than through formal regulations and controls. The underlying principles are aimed at balancing the need for traffic movement and social uses of public spaces.
A shared space in Covent Garden.
Shared use routes are unsegregated routes used by cyclists, pedestrians and wheelchair users, but not vehicles.
A shared use path.
Shared surfaces are undefined areas of paving used for a number of different activities including the movement and parking of vehicles. Shared surfaces are only sometimes features of shared spaces.
A shared surface in central London.
Are shared spaces inclusive for blind people and those with disabilities?
Blind and partially sighted people have reported that they sometimes feel unsafe and avoid using shared space schemes. This is why it is essential for disability groups, especially blind and visually impaired pedestrians, to be involved in the design process.
Shared spaces are an adaptable concept, and can include features that are helpful to these groups, such as tactile paving, which can help blind and partially sited people to navigate pavement spaces. Shared surfaces are not automatically a feature of shared space schemes, and should only be included alongside provisions to support vulnerable groups’ safety and comfort in shared spaces.
Do shared spaces cost more than traditional road layouts?
Research has shown that compared to other transport projects, investments in walking are value for money. The most significant measured benefit of investment in high quality public realm, such as shared space, is better health from increased physical activity. User experience (often referred to as journey ambience) is the second largest benefit. This represents the improved travel experience of users of a walking environment.