Is street design enough?

Ben Hamilton-Baillie, street designer and proponent of shared space (he penned the phrase), thinks streetscape redesign is enough on its own, and that streets are designed to express a social context, road-users will instinctively start behaving sociably. I accept that to a degree, but my view is there are other essential elements to make the reforms work. These include culture change, re-education and legal reform. People need to unlearn the bad habits of a lifetime instilled by the anti-social rules of the road. Also there is deep opposition to shared space from the GDA (Guide Dogs Association for the Blind). This is partly because shared space is often confused with shared surfaces = level streets with no kerb or obvious distinction between road and pavement. But there’s more to it. We know the current priority system is inane, inept, wasteful and intrinsically dangerous, but it’s one that people have been brought up with, so it’s asking a lot of pedestrians, especially the most vulnerable, suddenly to trust motorists to give way just because the road surface looks different. Instead of the barbaric situation we have now, where pedestrians have to beware motorists, legal reform would switch the onus so the motorist had to beware the vulnerable road-user. Drivers would become automatically liable unless they could prove a reckless act. In the event of an “accident” with a child under 14, the driver would be liable in any event. That would encourage drivers in busy streets to proceed at walking pace. When there are no children or pedestrians around, they can speed up – a sensible trade-off.

About Martin Cassini

Campaign founder and video producer, pursuing traffic system reform to make roads safe, civilised and efficient
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.