Are streets more walkable if the sidewalks are removed?
For most of us, when we're walking in the city, the safest place to be is on the pavement or sidewalk. However a new movement in urban street design, called 'Shared Space', is challenging this kind of thinking. Shared Space streets aim to reduce the dominance of cars by getting people and vehicles to share the road space. Controversially, this sometimes includes removing kerbs so that there is no physical demarcation between the pavement and the rest of the street. Surprisingly, this risky strategy has arguably made streets safer for pedestrians, with less accidents and slower vehicle speeds. Now the UK government has released official guidance on Shared Space, which not only shows the benefits and problems of the idea, but also attempts to provide advice on how to create high quality Shared Space streets.
Riskier streets = safer streets?
The new research examined a range of streets, from traditional streets with kerbs to 'Shared Surface' streets, where it is hard to tell where the pavement ends and the carriageway begins, such as New Road in Brighton. The study found that by removing kerbs, vehicle speeds were reduced below 20mph, although the researchers were quick to point out that this was a result of a combination of design measures.
The research team also found that drivers were fourteen times more likely to give-way to pedestrians in shared space streets. This more considerate driver behaviour was attributed to:
Lower vehicle speeds;
More people walking in the carriageway, which is encouraged by shared space design.