Shared space and cyclists
Regulate as little as possible, in order to get traffic participants to think for themselves and communicate. That is, in a nutshell, the essence of Shared Space. The Monderman design philosophy creates a lot of waves in the world of traffic. Isn’t this achieved at the expense of weaker traffic participants?
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What exactly do Shared Space designs look like for cyclists? We went looking for busy locations and ended up at the three well-known examples of Shared Space in Drachten and Haren, viz.:
- Laweiplein in Drachten
- intersection De Drift/Kaden in Drachten
- Rijksstraatweg, Haren
Conclusion: these three examples demonstrate that the Shared Space theory often sounds more radical than its practical implementation. There are no completely unregulated traffic situations, even though the intersection De Kaden comes close.
The most striking feature in all these designs is a considerable cutback in the jungle of traffic signs. All designs also result in a beautiful public space. Their character has changed from traffic-oriented to a more relaxed, leisurely approach. Even though cars are still highly prominent at these intensities.
What conclusions can be drawn about cyclists? In all three situations cyclists have complained about subjective feelings of danger. In the Shared Space ideology it is always emphasised that a certain degree of confusion, of subjective danger, contributes to safety. People are more attentive. In this view we should rejoice in the complaints about cyclists’ subjective danger. Methorst feels this proposition to be ludicrous. Scientist Letty Aarts of SWOV feels that attentiveness as a result of subjective feelings of danger is only effective at low speeds. At higher speeds people react simply too late.
In part these opinions of cyclists can often be heard whenever bike paths are removed or a bicycle street is constructed. In those cases the speed of car traffic and the relation between numbers of cars and cyclists are always crucial. Car speeds do not appear to be a major issue in all three designs. In that sense the Shared Space designs are nice alternatives to the standard speed bump range.
The designs in Haren and at Laweiplein turned out well for cyclists, in our opinion. The freedom of action for cyclists is optimal. Although somewhat inconsistent with the Shared Space principles additional measures have been taken here to reinforce the position of cyclists (right of way for cyclists at the Lawei roundabout) or to limit the drawbacks of motor vehicles (railings to prevent illegal parking in Haren). Too many cyclists come off worst at De Kaden because they let themselves be intimidated by car traffic. They seek the safety of the pedestrian crossings that the designers have, with some reluctance, constructed.