January 6, 2005 at 9:20 pm #9320GixParticipant
Courtesy Times online:
The theory is that all street-users are equal. Drivers will be forced to slow down and establish eye contact with pedestrians because they will no longer be able to assume that they have right of way.
Traffic managers traditionally have taken the view that pedestrians and vehicles must be separated at all costs. But research from the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany has shown that traffic lights and road signs deter road-users from taking responsibility for their actions. A driver simply looks at the colour of the light rather than at people wanting to cross. Far from making junctions safer, the array of signs and markings on modern roads distract road-users from the task of safely negotiating a route past other people.
The concept of “shared space” was pioneered in the Netherlands, where traffic lights and signs were removed from several junctions. Despite widespread predictions of chaos and carnage, the approach has reduced the number of crashes and made car journeys quicker.
The maximum speed through the shared space will fall to 20mph, as it is impossible to establish eye contact when travelling any faster, but drivers will save time by no longer having to wait for a green light if there is a gap at the junction. Pedestrians will be able to cross anywhere.
Ben Hamilton-Baillie, an urban designer who has helped to draw up the plans for Exhibition Road, said that motorists would still have full access to the road, but it would be like driving through a campsite. “You don’t need signs everywhere on a campsite telling you to give way or stop or slow down, because its blindingly obvious what you need to do,” he said.
Drivers would also be more responsible for any accidents as they would no longer be able to argue that people “just stepped out into the road”.
Kensington & Chelsea Council, the lead authority on the Exhibition Road project, also plans to apply shared space principles to Sloane Square by removing the roundabout and creating two large pedestrian areas outside the Royal Court Theatre and Peter Jones department store.
Wiltshire County Council has tested removing white lines from the centre of urban roads and found that accidents fell by 35 per cent.
Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.
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