The last decade has seen growth in the use of the controversial road management designs known as “shared space”. This concept, which originated from Europe, sees the removal of conventional road markings and introduces features such as kerbs or street signs which traditionally separate vehicles and pedestrians.
The theory behind the concept is to produce a safer environment through a reduction in speed and drivers taking a more cautious approach to the area. This is achieved by creating a sense of uncertainty for all road users.
The Department for Transport defined shared space as “A street or place designed to improve pedestrian movement and comfort by reducing the dominance of motor vehicles and enabling all users to share the space rather than follow the clearly defined rules implied by more conventional designs".
Whilst there are reported benefits from the use of this traffic management scheme, there is also opposition from groups representing vulnerable users, such as children or the blind, who fear the design could lead to confusion and danger and ultimately serious or life changing injuries.
In addition, when it comes to a collision and assessing who exactly was at fault for an accident, this will be a lot harder to determine given that there is an absence of any rules!
In Bournemouth, the local council have stated that in the 5 years prior to the new layout implemented at Horseshoe Common, where Old Christchurch Road meets Fir Vale Road, 22 collisions resulting in 23 casualties were recorded, 3 of which suffered serious injuries. In the 6 months since the shared space was implemented there has only been 1 incident resulting in injury had been reported, suggesting a significant reduction in collisions causing injury.
In the latest reported incident involving a Ford Focus and a Kawasaki motorcycle, the motorcyclist is reported to have suffered leg and arm injuries.