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Replace shared space 'concept' with street design that meets the requirements of all users

Juliana O'Rourke
12 January 2018
Seven Dials, Covent Garden, is one of the original shared spaces in the UK
Seven Dials, Covent Garden, is one of the original shared spaces in the UK


CIHT has finally launched its review of the issue of shared space and how it is being designed, implemented and installed across England. ‘Creating better streets: Inclusive and accessible places’ provides a series of recommendations to Government and industry on how this complex issue can be further improved and developed. The review’s recommendations are aimed at Government, local authorities and those professionals who are working to make our highways inclusive, safer and a positive part of the public realm and community around them. CIHT has presented these recommendations to government and will be coordinating a series of follow up discussions.

Andreas Markides, President, CIHT said: ‘Highways are a vital part of the public realm and contribute to a prosperous economy and a healthy and inclusive society.

‘In recent years, inspired by government documents such as ‘Manual for Streets’, the need to achieve a better balance between the ‘movement’ (by all modes) and ‘place’ functions of highways has increasingly become accepted by the profession.

‘This balancing of the movement and place functions of our highway and transport networks is a key area for consideration by transportation professionals and is a complex area where CIHT has worked collaboratively with government and others to develop guidance over a number of years.’

The recommendations include:

the need for greater awareness to create streets that are inclusive and accessible;

the development and use of a framework of objectives and outcomes for the basis of street design;

the need to replace the use of shared space as a concept with different design approaches;

the need for detailed research into the needs of all users and around specific design features;

the review of existing guidance and the development of new guidance to assist local authorities in producing better street design;

and, consideration of amending legislation in certain areas.

In undertaking the review, CIHT has worked to the principle that street design needs to meet the requirements of all users so that inclusive environments are created, says Markides. ‘This golden thread, enshrined in the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, must flow through the entire design, construction, operation and maintenance process.’

Lord Holmes of Richmond, who in 2015 published the report Accident by Design, calling shared space ‘architectural conceit’ and ‘planning folly’. 

Commenting on the new CIHT report, Lord Holmes said: ‘I congratulate the CIHT on taking the issue of accessibility and inclusion in the public realm seriously and making this report happen. I am delighted that the recommendations include ensuring that local authorities understand their duties with regard to the Equality Act and also recognise that: greater awareness, better training, more research and improved guidance are all needed. 

I’m also delighted that the report concludes - regarding crossings - that “there should be sufficient provision for all users to cross the carriageway safely and in comfort” and - regarding kerbs - that the separation between carriageway and footway “should be clearly delineated and detectable by all”.  It is essential that all our public spaces are safe, inclusive places for us all to enjoy.’

Tompion Platt, Head of Policy, Living Streets commented on the report: ‘There is an on-going debate around the merits of a ‘shared space’ approach; where it’s appropriate and how we design it in a way that works for everyone.With so much confusion around the term, we welcome that CIHT has called for more research to be conducted into how the shared space approach can be used…

we also strongly support the emphasis placed on stakeholder engagement, as it is vital that local people, especially those with disabilities, have the opportunity to contribute and that their views are listened to. Shared space is an approach rather than a one-size-fits-all concept, as the CIHT has said, and must be adapted to meet the needs of communities.’?

The review, carried out by CIHT members, draws on available evidence from a selection of schemes. These have helped to frame a number of recommendations for further work and improvements in the way that street design schemes are undertaken so that authorities can achieve outputs that meet the needs of all of their users. 

Says Markides: ‘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.

Peter Dickinson, Chair, Steering Group, Creating Better Streets said: ‘Shared space schemes, which are designed to achieve better places where pedestrians and cyclists can move more freely, were introduced with the aim of reducing the dominance of motor vehicles. Guidance on the topic was published by the Government in 2011. 

‘They have been popular with some people but have also attracted criticism. Parliament has responded to that criticism in various ways including through debates at the House of Lords and discussion at the Women and Equalities Select Committee.’  

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