Shared Spaces: reaction to my post from people who don’t agree with me.

I seem to have provoked a bit of a reaction from my post yesterday (Shared Public spaces are a complete hoax) when I said that I thought so-called ‘shared spaces’ for vans, cars, cyclists and pedestrians were a complete hoax, and that there is a clear hierarchy of supremacy in any conflict between them.

img_4021Mark Strong asked me what I think of the ‘shared space’ arrangements in New Road? It clearly works better, not least because of the volume of pedestrians, and the only vehicles that tend to use it are taxis and delivery vehicles who appear to have greater respect for pedestrians.

Mark says that Ann Street is “not perfect but it’s a lot better than before, even with the odd idiot”. That may be so, but it might be better still if there wasn’t the pretence of equality in the so-called ‘shared space’. I remain of the view that the concept is a hoax.

Mark does acknowledge that “transport planners do have range of views on ‘shared space’ (or ‘sh… space’ as Joan Dales (@johnstreetdales) calls it”.

Mark also comments that he hadn’t expected me to fall into the “anti expert trap”! He says that the “design of Ann St was done with lots of public engagement”. My experience over the years has given me a bit of a cynical view about transport planning ‘experts’ who say something will be great but turns out to be a disaster, or says something can’t be done when, with a bit of pressure it is readily achievable, such as the pedestrian refuge at the junction of Ditchling Road and Oxford Street which I campaigned for.

I am not opposed to ‘experts’ but often council officers are presented, or present themselves, as experts when they are nothing of the kind. (I’m doing well, upsetting a whole cohort of colleagues in the local authority! There are, of course, experts in areas such as environmental health and trading standards whose expertise and professionalism I applaud).

I was contacted by the Sea of Change who have produced a devastating film on the impact of ‘shared spaces’ on blind people. These people are real experts, and it is well worth watching their film that can be found here.

There is coverage in the film of the ‘shared space’ in Lewes. It is strong stuff.

Sea of Change said that many schemes have u-turned because “people have been killed/injured, and blind people have not been auble to use them (share spaces) independently. I would also add shared space has brought complete chaos to Preston which is trying to be resolved unsuccessfully”.

Simon Bannister disagrees with me with me on ‘shared spaces’. He said: “OK #SharedSpace isn’t universal salve but Ann St has been hugely improved.” He says he will “report back with evidence based findings in a few weeks.”

Oh dear, he has touched on another of my pet hates with the use of the phrase ‘evidence based’. Yes, of course all evidence should be looked at, but too many people use the phrase to exclude and negate anecdotal evidence. It is a phrase that can be disempowering for people whose lived experience says something different to the so-called experts. ‘Evidence based’ arguments can tend to reflect what one ‘expert’ says to another ‘expert’ thereby reenforcing a particular narrow outlook.

Ian Chisnall gets it right when he says that “the issue is that insufficient effort is made to change the culture of the people using the areas. I think the skatepark in Hollingdean is less dominated by male skaters”. Critically, he says that “the Level lacks the level of supervision we were originally promised and it is exposed to all sorts of risks as a result that do not help.”

But I don’t agree with him about expanding the ‘shared space’ to the whole city: “The Ann Street area exists in isolation of most of the rest of the city, perhaps if we could move towards a shared space city (except for the arterial roads) we might see a bit more tolerance?”

We need more enforcement, but then enforcement is not liked. Just look at today’s Argus (3rd January). Perhaps later I will write about the fining of motorists who use bus lanes. Why not really make myself unpopular!

PS In case you are wondering how I have time to engage in this debate on ‘shared space’, I am still on annual leave, due back to work next Monday, so I still have plenty of time to upset even more people!

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