A Conservative peer and the chief executive of the Institute of Highway Engineers (IHE) have called for legislation to be strengthened to ensure that highways authorities carry out and publish road safety audits on shared space schemes.
The comments come as the Department for Transport, the IHE and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation are working together on analysing outcomes from current shared space schemes, with a view to developing new guidance for local authorities.
An example of one type of 'shared space' scheme
IHE chief executive Richard Hayes told Transport Network the joint working was looking into creating a set of considerations that could act as a threshold for the implementation of shared space schemes.
‘We are looking at a checklist of things that must be considered before one implements shared space; a set of considerations to be made and examined by decision makers which are all of equal importance including environmental factors, enhancement of the space, commercial aspects and of course accessibility,’ he said.
Mr Hayes went on to say there should be a specific statutory obligation to carry out independent local road safety audits for any significant highways scheme, particularly shared space.
‘Currently most authorities do carry out road safety audits but not all, and they are not a statutory obligation. We understand that sometimes even when they are done some of the recommendations are being ignored because they don’t fit with the ethos of the scheme. I feel some authorities pay them lip service,’ he said.
‘I think they should be a statutory obligation on all authorities for schemes as significant as shared space. It’s a significant decision and there needs to be accountability. We need them to be published too. If there is an issue post opening of the scheme, there needs to be an examination of why certain decisions were made and that needs to be transparent.
'There is the potential for culpability. We need to be able to go back to those involved and ask why they made the decisions they did. These audits should provide independent advice based on sound best practice.’
Highways authorities have a statutory requirement to take appropriate measures to reduce the possibility of traffic accidents and collisions. A road safety audit would be one way to help comply with the 1988 Road Traffic Act legislation. However, such audits are only ‘commended’ to local authorities without being a specific obligation.
Conservative peer and anti shared space campaigner Lord Holmes backed the calls with regard shared space schemes.
He also heavily criticised a recent report by fellow Conservative Grant Shapps, which recommended that councils consider whether shared space was appropriate in their localities, describing it as a ‘promising solution’.
Lord Holmes said: ‘Despite referring to my survey into people’s experiences of shared space - which found 63% of people rating experiences as poor and over a third of people actively avoiding them - the Shapps report fails to mention the way in which blind and other vulnerable road users are completely excluded from these schemes.
'It is a shame that the Shapps report is peddling outdated myths rather than supporting current efforts to gain accurate data.’