Two eyes in inclusion?

Lord Holmes

Ever had a bonkers idea, you know, the sort that arrive in the wee small hours, they seem marvellous at the time; rubber feet to stop shoes and socks getting wet, chocolate beds in case you get the munchies… that kind of thing?

When we wake most of us rightly smile, then neatly fold and place these ideas in the locked drawers of our dreams, dazzling in the dark but when such magic is exposed to the gathering light of day….

Well, here’s the thing, some of these dazzlements make their way into the dystopic day and the dream becomes the nightmare it always would.

One such idea is “shared spaces”, innocuous sounding I agree until I set out its central proposition; put buses and blind people, white cane users and white vans, guide dog owners and gas guzzlers, toddlers and tankers in the same “shared space” and see what happens. The proposition is predicated on the belief that everyone will behave better, have a more inclusive, interactive experience if all those tedious traffic signals, pelican and zebra crossings, pavements and street markings were all swept away. I mean, whoever came up with such a lunacy as lights to tell vehicles or pedestrians when to stop or go, audible signals to enable blind and visually impaired people to have the comfort and the confidence to cross- crazy huh ?

There is nothing ”shared” in this “space”. There is nothing inclusive in the concept. I’m all for innovation and improvement but a scheme which relies exclusively on eye contact means that I can’t use it, and neither can millions of others. Even if I could are we really suggesting that a driver looked at by a plaintive pedestrian will behave better, slow down and wave them across? In reality, research has shown that in streets with high volumes of traffic, pedestrians are more likely to give way to vehicles. The same research showed women and older people also felt intimidated by the shared space and preferred previous road layouts and conventional crossings.

This was the subject of the short debate last Thursday [read debate here] to question the government and draw public attention to just what is going on out there in this “shared space”. It is pleasing to note that a scheme in Gloucester is being reconsidered and local authorities in Blackpool and Warwick have already performed well executed U-turns. I strongly suggest that all others follow suit.

4 comments for “Two eyes in inclusion?

  1. Nikki S
    15/01/2015 at 6:26 pm

    Well said, the more this is put into the public realm the more those who are able to cross roads freely will understand what the issue is. Until then, it is like talking to a brick wall as they cannot see (pardon the pun) what the problem is.

  2. 15/01/2015 at 10:29 pm

    Thank you. Shared Space is indeed ‘a bonkers idea’. Actually, I’ve been writing the same about Shared Space since 2008 and demonstrating the problems that it causes to people who come on the regular study tours of cycling infrastructure that we organise in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, this bad idea gets more attention in other countries than the many very good ideas.

    And whatever people try to convince you, the safety record of Shared Space is actually terrible. This is not just opinion.Those crash and injury figures speak to themselves.

  3. 15/01/2015 at 11:33 pm

    I would echo Lord Chris Holmes words as I have witnessed the impact of shared space road design on blind and partially sighted people when making our film about this issue. It is called Sea of Change Film – Walking Into Trouble which allows the blind people to tell you exactly what it is like to have shared space roads and crossings designed into the towns and cities where they live. I would urge you to watch the film and insist action is taken to do U turns in places which have implemented them and to insist all new regeneration activities ensure inclusive accessibility for independent travel for all. As this is the UN MyWorld2015 year to act, so that is what we are doing. Walking Into Trouble 2 is already being filmed, Gloucester and Leicester filmed, and meeting already taken place with Institute of Highway Engineers. Any helped welcomed.
    Well done Lord Chris Holmes for such an honest and open blog.

  4. Karl Denning
    21/02/2015 at 10:05 pm

    As a guide dog owner and a former driver I understand both sides of the arguement. The flaw in the concept is that all parties make eye contact and agree terms for each others passage on the shared space. It is not only visually impaired that the concept does not work for but those on phones, wheelchairs users, prams, the list goes on. Most drivers use the I give way to vehicles bigger than me, never a good idea with flesh and bone around

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