Pedestrians steer clear of so-called 'shared spaces' over fear of cars

The newly pedestrianised Exhibition Road in London today.   PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 1 2012. See PA story. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Inner-city 'shared spaces' that mix pedestrians and cars could be given an overhaul, after research found that some pedestrians were too scared to use them.

Shared spaces are intended to remove on-road clutter from city streets. They ditch traditional lane markings, kerbs and traffic signs, with the intention being that pedestrians are less intimidated by cars, and can cross at will.

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In an ideal situation, drivers will reduce their speed, because priority is uncertain.

However, a recent review by the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT) said "it was clear that some users consider the current designs... need to be improved."

The review brought concerns over the safety of such roads, especially among blind and partially sighted people. The lack of kerbs and bright visual warnings meant those with poor vision found the new environment "more hostile and consequently said that they had altered their behaviour to avoid them".

Around 100 roads in Britain have been adapted to become shared spaces. The CIHT report analysed 11 such schemes across England, including Exhibition Road in Kensington, West London, where a taxi ran into a crowd of visitors last year, injuring 11.

In Gloucester, an area of the city centre was transformed into a shared space in 2011. However, in 2015 a pedestrian crossing had to be installed, after drivers and pedestrians complained about safety.

Despite complaints, the CIHT report found reduced accident levels in four of 11 areas. On the remaining seven, rates were unchanged or figures were inconclusive.

However, it did say that the term 'shared space' should be scrapped, as there is no formal legislation on what it defines. It also called for laws to give pedestrians formal priority in such areas, adding kerbs to aid the visually impaired, and maintain formal crossings in areas of high traffic.

Andreas Markides, the CIHT president, said: "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 safe, inclusive environments."

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