The Birmingham suburb of Moseley has in common with Acocks Green that a lot of its residents feel that a Shared Space scheme would be right for the area. There is much about Shared Space on this website, see special Shared Space section links on the right, but, essentially, Shared Space means removing most (not necessarily all) street furniture and signeage and reducing the distinction between road and pavement, causing traffic to slow down and negotiate more carefully with pedestrians. The initial reaction when people are first told about this is often a horrified gasp followed by a question like ‘But isn’t that dangerous?’ It seems not. Everywhere so far, where such schemes have been introduced accident rates have dramatically fallen whilst use of use of public street spaces, communty spirit and local trade has generally improved.
Moseley recently commissioned a report by Alison Millward Associates on the viability of Shared Space for Moseley. The detailed, 33 page, report is now available on the Moseley Forum website, together with a PowerPoint show, here (See end of the Moseley Forum post.) Moseley Forum kindly invited Acocks Green residents to attend its meeting to present this report, on 21 September 2010, and a number of Acocks Green Focus Group members attended. Alison began by drawing our attention to a recentGuardian Report on Shared Space. This refers to the fact that Ashford in Kent which introduced Shared Space over a year ago has experienced no accidents whatsover since the scheme was introduced.
Alison then presented her detailed findings in a talk and a PowerPoint show. We thought she was very fair, and thorough, in her information, and that she had worked hard to identify particular concerns which had been expressed in connection with some Shared Space schemes, whilst showing how these could be overcome (eg concerns about visually impaired people can often be addressed by providing extra ways of marking the surroundings, eg with tactile surfaces, designated crossing points and GPS systems are being increasingly a possibility) For her study she reviewed Shared Space schemes in the UK and across Europe and she interviewed visually impaired and disabled pedestrians and also pedestrians with learning difficulties and mental health issues. At the same Alison showed how improved safety statics are a regular feature of Shared Space schemes. Successful schemes generally slow the traffic to 20 m.p.h. or less, whilst overall journey times are usually not reduced. One scheme showed that bus waiting times at junctions in Shared Space was in fact reduced from 9 seconds to 5 seconds. There is more on reduced journey times and Shared Space in the Newland Avenue Report (See Shared Space links on our right, again.)
Alison also stressed that Shared Space schemes need to be designed specifically for each suburb. A scheme for Moseley, on a cross roads, might be different from one for Acocks Green. One question from the audience centred on whether Shared Space would be more appropriate for Moseley than for Acocks Green. Our own findings, having discussed this over the years with Ben Hamilton-Baillie, whose firm designed the Shared Space Artist’s Impression for Moseley is that this is not so. Acocks Green does, indeed, require a different type of approach from Moseley, but Acocks Green is very similar to Drachten, in Holland: a small town with a busy central green island and several entrances: a structure slightly similar to our own beloved Green. This has an early (2003) highly successful Shared Space Scheme: see link on right of our website to the Ben Hamilton Baillie 2008 ‘Improving Traffic Behaviour through Urban Design’ report for further details. Here is Drachten. (Serious accidents reduced from around 8 per year to almost zero since the introduction of Shared Space.)
And here is an overhead shot of our own island – ‘The Green at Acocks Green.
It was interesting to see that Doug Hyde, Head of Transportation Strategy for Birmingham City Council, was in the audience. Doug was a little wary of very high volume traffic schemes in connection with Shared Space but stressed that he is ‘… not fundamentally against Shared Space’ in fact he likes a lot of these schemes he said. He mentioned John Bright Street in town as an example of a succssful Birmingham City Centre Shared Space scheme. He seemed not to yet know a great deal about Acocks Green’s opposite number at Drachten, but this is something we are happy to further assist Doug on! Doug also mentioned the up-coming, long awaited, report from the Transportation Scrutiny Committee on Shared Space,
saying that this would be available soon. As Acocks Green and Moseley are both now fond of saying: Watch this Shared Space for further developments!