London’s latest street remodelling using the 'shared space' method this week came under fire from local residents who blasted it as an 'accident waiting to happen'.
The shared space scheme in question is a 13m by 3m area of roadway raised to pavement level directly outside the entrance to Sloane Square Tube station.
"At Sloane Square 50,000 people stand outside that station every day, and they [the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea] have put in a single paving with no curb," said West London Residents Association chairman Gordon Taylor, whose group led the successful protest against the western extension to London’s congestion charge zone. "There is no tactile paving for the blind and there is no sign or anything to say 'this is a shared space'," he added.
Shared space schemes are already widely in use in the Netherlands and Germany. As well as raising road surfaces to the same level as pavements they involve removing street railings and are praised for reducing accidents.
Evidence suggests that people drive more carefully when in the absence of road markings, kerbs and railings. But Guide Dogs for the Blind claims they are a threat to all vulnerable road users (NCE 13 September 2007). "These types of road surface discriminate against the blind, the partially sighted, those with learning difficulties, children and the elderly," said Guide Dogs for the Blind campaign manager David Cowdrey.
The charity is working with the West London Residents Association to coordinate opposition to the Sloane Square scheme.