There is an ‘urgent need’ for an immediate suspension of all shared space schemes until more research is carried out into the effect they have on local communities, a new report has warned.
Released today from the office of paralympian Lord Holmes of Richmond, the Accidents by Design report found 63% of people rated their experience of shared space schemes as poor, with a further 35% reportedly going out of their way to avoid them.
Lord Holmes, who is blind, said: ‘An immediate moratorium on all shared space is absolutely essential. I hope that this survey will act as a wake-up call to all involved in these dangerous and costly planning follies.
‘Town centres are being turned into dangerous third-world traffic free-for-alls. Shared space is not a safe place, overzealous councils are risking public safety for aesthetics and the result is confusion, chaos, unnecessary cost and catastrophe.’
Including responses from more than 500 users of shared space schemes, the survey also found 28 respondents had been involved in an accident on a shared space scheme, with 11 of them involved in more than one. Of these incidents only three (11%) were reported to the police, with a further one reported to the local council.
‘This pattern calls into question the validity of a) the methodology recommended by the Department for Transport (DfT) on how to monitor operational safety of a shared space and b) previous evaluations of shared space using road accident statistics if this under-reporting has not been taken into account,’ the report states.
As well as calling for new shared space schemes to be put on hold, the study states accessibility audits into existing shared space schemes must be carried out and a central record of accident data including 'courtesy crossings', which must be defined and monitored, should be compiled.
It also calls on the Department for Transport to update guidance so that local authorities ‘better understand their responsibilities under the Equalities Act’.
It also highlights that a number of authorities have had to reverse or modify shared space schemes following public complaints.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin promised the transport select committee at the end of the last parliament that his department would look into the effects of shared space schemes.
He also vowed to work on the delayed update to the Government’s best practice guidance Inclusive Mobility.
A DfT spokesperson said today: ‘It is for local authorities to assess the suitability of introducing a shared space scheme on their roads. As part of this we expect them to take into account the needs of the whole community, particularly disabled people.’
Only 13% reported liking shared spaces and 7% said they had no concerns.
Of the 523 shared space users who responded to the survey 60% recording no impairment, 10% were blind or partially sighted.