A survey to investigate public attitudes to shared space has been launched by Paralympic Champion and Parliamentarian Lord (Chris) Holmes.
Lord Holmes (pictured) is blind and strongly believes that shared space schemes which minimise demarcations between vehicle traffic and pedestrians are dangerous. Shared space schemes remove features such as curbs, road surface markings, traffic signs, controlled crossings and regulations.
The result is buses and blind people, toddlers and tankers all sharing the same space. There are no separate safe spaces for pedestrians and no clear regulations for drivers. The Highway Code has no clear instructions on shared space.
Blind and partially sighted people have particular difficulties with the schemes but this survey also aims to generate evidence from other groups, such as other pedestrians and drivers who, anecdotally, talk of serious concerns when driving in these spaces.
In the UK the number of shared space schemes is increasing, with many local authorities planning new schemes, despite the inherent difficulties.
The Department for Transport’s official position on shared space schemes is ‘neutral’ but they do issue advice to local authorities – Transport Note 1/11 ‘Shared Space’. An academic study that looked at the evidence underpinning this guidance concluded “claims made in the guidance are not supported by the evidence”. The same research also found that many people, particularly women and older people found shared space intimidating and preferred a traditional system of regulated road crossings.
Lord Holmes states: “It is imperative that we take a proper look at the consequences of these schemes before it is too late. I hope this survey will cast some much needed light on the unintended but nevertheless terrible impact shared space schemes are having on so many people.”