Time for the Government to step up on shared space

 

A cross-party group of MPs has today published a report with recommendations, following an enquiry into disability and the built environment.

The enquiry looked closely at the issue of shared space, an area I have been concerned about for some time. I’m delighted that they have concluded, as I did in my own report published two years ago, that shared space creates serious safety concerns and excludes many people.

”Local
Lord Holmes of Richmond

The committee correctly identified the first barrier to clarity around the vexed question of shared space is that there is no definitive explanation of the term. The Department for Communities and Local Government states that 'within a shared space, the intention is to encourage all types of road users to share the full width of the street'.

Specific features of shared space are identified by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport as 'the removal of traditional delineators between pedestrians and vehicles (such as kerbs and controlled crossing points) and the mixing of pedestrians and vehicles in the same street'.

It is these particular features of shared space that first alerted me to the issue. I am a guide dog user and removing a controlled crossing simultaneously removes my ability to safely and independently cross a road.

Shared space is believed to 'improve streetscapes', in particular by reducing vehicle speeds, and while I completely appreciate and approve of this objective I cannot support the use of pedestrians as human shields to these ends.

Observing that (most) vehicles slow down in a space shared with pedestrians is like pointing out that people cycle more slowly without a helmet and drive more carefully without a seatbelt and therefore banning cycle helmets and seatbelts to improve safety.

My own research found that regardless of their mode of transport, disability status or gender, an overwhelming majority of respondents did not enjoy using shared spaces. I also found a third of respondents went out of their way to actively avoid shared space.

The select committee gathered a considerable amount of evidence from individuals and organisations that supported these findings.

There is also a belief that shared space encourages footfall to an area and is often introduced by local authorities as a means of stimulating economic regeneration but it cannot make good economic sense to plan people out of their environments. The economic imperative and the accessible imperative, are not, and should not be perceived as, mutually exclusive.

The committee found that the Government does not seem to have grasped the seriousness of the barrier to inclusion that certain features (or the lack of certain features) present to so many disabled people. 

I welcome the committee’s recommendation that the Government take a leadership role on this. Thus far the Government has abdicated all responsibility stating clearly and repeatedly that the duty lies with local authorities to get local planning right.

”Local
An example of shared space. (Photo Roman Cassini)

As local authorities continue to design and implement inaccessible schemes and then face a choice between costly retrofits or excluded communities, the Government must step in.

An admirably focused and detailed recommendation is that 'the Government require local authorities to call a halt to the use of shared space schemes, pending clear national guidance that explicitly addresses the needs of disabled people'.

'This should, in particular, instruct local authorities that controlled crossings and regular height kerbs are to be retained and that they should undertake an urgent review of existing schemes, working with disabled people in their area to identify the changes that are necessary and practicable.' 

A further recommendation is that the Government urgently replace the 2011 LTN on shared spaces with new guidance, founded on inclusive design approach, to ensure that any resultant schemes are inclusive, navigable and welcoming for disabled people and although adequate guidance is important they rightly point out that individuals also need an accessible means to challenge decisions when such guidance is not adhered to.

Current legislation, under the Equality Act, requires public bodies to make reasonable adjustments, which though conceptually sound has proved difficult to establish in practice. The committee recommends regulations be brought forward to ensure the updated guidance would be enforceable under law.

The impact on people’s lives when public spaces are not accessible is devastating. Inclusive design must be the golden thread that runs through all new buildings and works in the public realm.

There will be a real opportunity when the new government comes in to address a widespread and growing problem and I applaud the select committee for recognising the seriousness of the issue and producing such clear and effective recommendations.

Register now for full access


Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
highways jobs

TRANSPORT FOR WALES APPOINTMENT OF NON-EXECUTIVE CHAIR

Transport for Wales
£425.00 per day
Transport for Wales (TfW) is a not for profit company, wholly-owned by the Welsh Government and established in 2015. Wales
Recuriter: Transport for Wales

Executive Director - Place

Lincolnshire County Council
Up to £130,000
Fantastic opportunities to join our team to help us shape the delivery of services across Lincolnshire. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Transport and Depot Manager

New Forest District Council
Circa £45,000
New Forest District Council are looking to recruit a Transport and Depot Manager who will be the lead officer on fleet maintenance Marsh Lane Depot, Lymington
Recuriter: New Forest District Council

Pest Control Officer

Brent Council
£25,746 - £27,342 p.a. inc.
Salary range
Recuriter: Brent Council

StreetCare Supervisor (Highways)

South Gloucestershire Council
£28,221 - £30,756
The post holder shall be responsible for supervising the implementation of civil and structural engineering schemes Gloucestershire
Recuriter: South Gloucestershire Council

Senior Manager Roads (Structure, Lighting, Flooding & Design)

North Ayrshire Council
£52,818.84 - £56,034.29 per year
You will be involved in leading a professional Team of employees responsible for the management of all Roads Structures Irvine, North Ayrshire
Recuriter: North Ayrshire Council

Engineering Manager (Structures, Street Lighting and Signals)

Plymouth City Council
£42 806 - £47,546
We are looking for a dynamic Engineering Manager Plymouth, Devon
Recuriter: Plymouth City Council

Highways Maintenance Manager

Plymouth City Council
£37,107 - £41,846
We are looking for a dynamic Highways Manager Plymouth, Devon
Recuriter: Plymouth City Council

Highways Asset Manager

Plymouth City Council
£32,333 - £36,153
We are looking for a dynamic Highways Asset Manager to lead and co-ordinate our new Highways Asset Management team Plymouth, Devon
Recuriter: Plymouth City Council

Engineer - Capital Projects

Liverpool City Council
£32,233 - £37,107
Liverpool City Council is looking to recruit an Engineer - Capital Projects. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Asset Management Officer (inc Signals)

Liverpool City Council
£27,358 - £31,401
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit an Asset Management Officer to assist with the delivery of highway maintenance... Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Technical Assistant

Liverpool City Council
£23,111 - £27,358
Liverpool City Council are looking to recruit a Technical Assistant. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Divisional Manager - Major Projects

Liverpool City Council
£65,013 - £69,812
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Divisional Manager - Major Projects to act as the strategic lead Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Team Leader - Asset Management

Liverpool City Council
£41,846 - £46,560
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Team Leader to be responsible for the development and management of the highways Asset Management Team Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Site Supervisor

Liverpool City Council
£32,233 - £37,107
Liverpool City Council wish to appoint Site Supervisors to supervise the City Council's highway construction works. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Principal Engineer - Asset Management

Liverpool City Council
£37,107 - £41,846
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Principal Engineer to assist in managing and maintaining highway and transport related assets Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Contracts Manager

Liverpool City Council
£37,107 - £41,846
Liverpool City Council wish to recruit a Contracts Manager based in Highways & Transportation. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Transport Coordinator

Camden London Borough Council
£32,473 - £37,670 per annum
We have an exciting opportunity for 2 highly customer focused Transport Coordinators to work in the busy Camden Transport Team. Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Assistant Director, Community, Cultural and Leisure Services

Royal Borough of Greenwich
up to £100,830
In Greenwich we are immensely proud of our Maritime history, Greenwich Mean Time and Royal Status Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Commercial Manager (City Highways)

Leicester City Council
£41,846 - £44,697 per annum
The Commercial Manager is responsible for managing a large team of technical and administrative staff undertaking a broad range of functions. Leicestershire
Recuriter: Leicester City Council