The Department for Transport (DfT) has been accused of sparking a “fiasco”, after it ordered all shared space road schemes to be halted.
Following pressure from disability campaign groups, as well as nine-time Paralympic gold medalist Lord Chris Holmes, the DfT adopted a new Inclusive Transport Strategy in July which required local authorities “to pause any shared space schemes incorporating a level surface”.
A shared space road scheme involves creating carriageway which can be shared by vehicles and pedestrians with the design and street furniture combining to discourage motorists from speeding.
Those opposed to shared spaces claim that they are extremely unsafe for the blind, as there are no markers to differentiate between pedestrian and vehicle zones.
However, the DfT’s new strategy has been accused of creating “greater confusion”. Urban Design Group director Robert Huxford told New Civil Engineer that the DfT’s definition of a shared space was very vague and thus led to a “fiasco”.
He said: “I think the DfT didn’t realise that the request to pause would be interpreted as including all level surface shared space including residential areas and the subsequent impact on the house building. Fiasco would be a good word to use.”
Concern voiced by the Urban Design Group, Home Builders Federation and others to ministers prompted the DfT to clarify that the request to pause did not include ‘‘traffic management features intended to improve safety”.
However, after pausing their shared space schemes, some highway authorities reverted to using vehicle-centric planning design, which is out-dated and considered dangerous.
As a result the DfT was forced to clarify its policy again in a letter sent to local authorities on the September 28.
The letter, seen by New Civil Engineer, states: “In response to concerns raised about shared space and navigability, the Inclusive Transport Strategy asked local authorities to pause the introduction of new shared space schemes that feature a level surface, and which are at the design stage. This therefore does not apply to development schemes that are currently at the planning application stage or beyond.
“For the avoidance of doubt, a level surface is a design feature in which the level difference between the footway and the carriageway is removed. The request to pause such schemes has led to a number of enquiries from developers, practitioners and planning authorities.”
But Holmes told New Civil Engineer that the letter has served only to increase the confusion
“The recent letter has just served to confuse and muddy the carriageway. Having a moratorium on shared space, if properly set out and defined, would be a thoroughly good thing, the problem is that that clarity wasn’t there as it should have been,” he said.
“What we have now it seems, is a moratorium on level surface shared space in high density traffic areas, such as high streets. That is not a moratorium on shared space, that is only looking at one specific area and allows designers to continue carry on with shared space in everything bar name.”
The DfT has been approached for comment.
Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.