Shared space is an urban design concept aimed at integrated use of public spaces. It encourages traffic engineers, urban planners and experts from other fields to consult with users of public space when planning and designing streets and squares in both built and non-built environments. The concept shares some characteristics with Living streets.
Shared space removes the traditional segregation of motor vehicles, pedestrians and other road users. Conventional road priority management systems and devices such as kerbs, lines, signs and signals are replaced with an integrated, people-oriented understanding of public space, such that walking, cycling, shopping and driving cars become integrated activities.
The new traffic model’s advocates believe the only way out of this vicious circle is to give drivers more liberty and encourage them to take responsibility for themselves. They demand streets like those during the Middle Ages, when horse-drawn chariots, handcarts and people scurried about in a completely unregulated fashion. The new model’s proponents envision today’s drivers and pedestrians blending into a colorful and peaceful traffic stream.
It may sound like chaos, but it’s only the lesson drawn from one of the insights of traffic psychology: Drivers will force the accelerator down ruthlessly only in situations where everything has been fully regulated. Where the situation is unclear, they’re forced to drive more carefully and cautiously.
Strange as it may seem, the number of accidents has declined dramatically.