Southampton is the latest British town to introduce a ‘shared space’ scheme that involves improving road safety by stripping streets of their markings and even pavements.
The creation of so-called ‘naked streets’ by removing pedestrian crossings and white lines creates uncertainty in road users that forces them to pay greater attention and slow down. Drivers soon become aware that a person could step out from any number of informal crossing points.
The idea of ‘shared space’ was pioneered by planners in the town of Drachten and has spread as far afield as Australia and America.
A spokesperson for the Environmental Transport Association (ETA) said: “The concept of naked streets challenges the assumption that cars have precedence in town – it does a great job of making streets safer and more pleasant places to be.”
How does the idea of ‘shared space’ work?
Shared space schemes work because they use basic psychology to slow traffic. Signs, barriers and segregation reduce individual responsibility whereas people take greater care feel when they feel slightly at risk. ‘Naked streets’ forces everyone to slow down and establish eye contact with other in order to establish other peoples’ intentions.
Brighton has transformed one street into a fully shared space, with no delineation of the carriageway except for subtle changes in materials. There has been a 93% increase in cycling and a reduction in speed to around 10mph. Similar schemes in continental Europe have seen road casualties reduced to zero.
What is the ETA?
The ETA is a not-for-profit ethical organisation providing motorists and cyclists with carbon-neutral breakdown cover and insurance products. As well as encouraging responsible driving to reduce carbon, the ETA campaigns for sustainable transport.