I read an interesting article yesterday that presents almost the exact opposite position to my post about Pompeiian crosswalks. In that post, I suggested that the raised crosswalks that are found all over Pompeii could be implemented in modern cities. The raised crosswalks make crossing the street easy, safe, and clean for pedestrians, and the narrow gaps between the stones force wheeled transport to slow down to negotiate the gap.
The concept of shared space has the complete opposite perspective. Shared space is a political movement where all markers that have traditionally been used to separate pedestrians, bikes, and traffic are removed. This forces all users of the space to take responsibility for their movement, and doesn’t allow them to rely on their ‘right of way’. For example, removing crosswalks, curbs, and even stop signs and lane markers forces pedestrians and drivers to communicate using eye contact, and the physical body language that everybody uses when they are walking around. Walking down a narrow hallway, strangers will nod to each other to allow others to go ahead, or make eye contact to ensure different people head towards different doors. This sort of non-verbal communication forces everybody to acknowledge other users of a space. This comes into effect in public space if the normal ‘rules’ are removed and everybody is forced to interact with everybody else as they move through the space. This is the goal of shared space.
I’m torn, I love the concept of shared space, but know that unless everybody buys in, it’s the sort of thing that is difficult to implement. People are too afraid of removing their apparent safety nets, despite ample proof that other systems reduce injuries/accidents. On the flip side, raised crosswalks are just increasing the nanny state ideology – trying to force people to be safe.
What do you think?