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Sharing your space

By Paul Costigan - 6 July 2016 6

Lake-Burley-Griffin-P1170280

There’s a 1989 song by Pere Ubu, Flat, that has the following lyrics, “In the early part of the 20th Century, Deep inside the American wilderness, In the state of Kansas – 82,000 square miles of flat – There were two automobile cars. On July 5th 1904 they ran into each other”.

Then there’s the story of the police launch on Lake Burley Griffin, somewhere around the 1970s-80s, that went for a cruise early one morning and managed to run over a lone kayaker*. They did not see each other coming.

The point I am making is that no matter how careful we are in our day-to-day lives, it seems that every now and then we bump into one another. And hopefully that’s all it is – a bump. Of course at times this can be far more serious.

However it is remarkable just how adaptable people can be when left to themselves to sort out how to avoid each other. I am always amazed that at traffic lights that two crowds of people on a pedestrian crossing can walk straight at each other and still everyone manages to avoid each other.

The best example of this is when the lights at an intersection open up the whole intersection for pedestrians to cross in all directions simultaneously. This can be amazing to watch at very busy metropolitan intersections. Everyone survives the experience by working out how to avoid one another even though they come from many directions.

But – put people in cars into the mix and it does not work out so well.

I have observed shared spaces in several cities and have come to the conclusion, that despite governments’ best efforts, the full sharing of these spaces has a long way to go to being fully accepted by participants.

pedestrian-cross-P1180754Most recently I visited Auckland for a couple of weeks and had the opportunity to often sit in a café on a shared laneway – whereby cars and pedestrians were supposed to share the space equally. It was not working. Cars still demanded that people were to step aside to allow the vehicle through.

The same applies to the shareway in Civic. It works – sort of – most of the time but still requires a brave soul to step out and demand equality of the space with a vehicle – especially if the vehicle is a bus or delivery truck.

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I like very much the compromise whereby several precincts around Canberra now have 40 kph zones. It was supposed to slow the traffic to take account of the more frequent use of the spaces by pedestrians. Sadly it does not quite work. The culture of many drivers remains the same in that they are the ones who have top priority. Many drivers still rush along these 40 kph streets and laneways at speeds far too dangerous for pedestrians.

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Despite these early set backs, 40 kph areas should be extended into more areas. We need to make more positive efforts to reverse the priority put on vehicles in built up areas.

For these shared spaces and reduced speed areas to work there needs to be a rethink of the placement of road signage. There also needs to be more special markings on the streets to remind drivers to slow down and to encourage their sharing of the spaces with pedestrians.

People can learn to not bump into each. It is definitely worth the effort.

Then there are ever-shrinking supermarket aisles and how difficult the supermarkets make it for people in this shared space – but that’s another story for another day!

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* I remember this story (police hit kayak) from the late 70s or soon after. But I could not find any record of this online. Does anyone have further information on this event?

Here’s a link to the Pere Ubu song mentioned above – click here.

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6 Responses to
Sharing your space
Mordd 4:46 pm 08 Jul 16

It doesn’t help that the signage on bunda street is 4 metres up in the air, telling drivers it’s a shared space, how exactly are they meant to see that sitting in a car, it’s not a big sign after all, it’s not even ridged, it’s a flag flapping in the wind.

https://www.facebook.com/Mordd.IndyMedia/photos/a.1785223868364214.1073741828.1785218075031460/1786638181556116/?type=3&theater

ungruntled 2:35 pm 08 Jul 16

“Most recently I visited Auckland for a couple of weeks and had the opportunity to often sit in a café on a shared laneway – whereby cars and pedestrians were supposed to share the space equally. It was not working. Cars still demanded that people were to step aside to allow the vehicle through.”

Two points :
1. How else do the cars get through?
2. Why do you want to have coffee on a roadway & take in the pollution with your coffee? It’s a well known health hazard. I don’t think the cars there are all electric yet, are they?

ungruntled 2:34 pm 08 Jul 16

“Most recently I visited Auckland for a couple of weeks and had the opportunity to often sit in a café on a shared laneway – whereby cars and pedestrians were supposed to share the space equally. It was not working. Cars still demanded that people were to step aside to allow the vehicle through.”

Two points :
1. How else do the cars get through?
2. Why do you want to have coffee on a roadway & take in the pollution with your coffee? It’s a well known health hazard. I don’t think the cars there are all electric yet, are they?

ungruntled 2:29 pm 08 Jul 16

dungfungus said :

The only issue with the shared space on Bunda Street is the ‘painted’ sections. The raised sections work pretty well.

Shared spaces only really work if drivers feel like they are driving on the pavement. i.e. it’s clearly a ‘people space’ first and foremost, not a ‘car space’. The raised sections of Bunda street feel like that. There is not curb, no clear edge of tho footpath etc.

The painted sections are the opposite. Because there are still curbs separating the footpath from the road, the road is still bitumen rather than paving, and there is street furniture (the rusty planter boxes) on large sections, it still feels like ‘car space’, where cars have right of way.

They should have raised and paved the whole length of the shared zone if they wanted it to work as intended.

The other requirement of a shared space, is for the pedestrians to share too!

I see it all the time. They just walk all over the place like browns cows, with absolutely no regard that there are other people trying to go places too.

Why else would it have become necessary to put lights to contol the crossings between the original Canberra Centre & all the extended part across the other side of the road? And then more further up the road.

Pedestrians just kept walking out, often with their eyes on the phone screen in front of them & never gave a thought to who else may be using the space too.

How much has that little exercise cost the community? All that was needed was some good manners & consideration of others.

dlenihan 6:32 pm 06 Jul 16

dungfungus said :

The only issue with the shared space on Bunda Street is the ‘painted’ sections.

I’m there everyday, The real issue is very simply, drivers simply don’t get it or don’t care.

Everyday I see someone hit speeds that are totally unacceptable for that area. Drivers, Bunda St for most its length is a share-way now and pedestrians get the right away. One morning some poor soul will be seriously injured at the end section opposite ACTWEW-AGL as drivers blast through the stop sign at Veterans Park and on to the share-way. (where are the police?)

And the Civic area has lots of crossing on the side streets, revving you car in an impatient manner and edging forward to intimidate people is not going to stop the lunch time crowds in this area. Take a tip, park somewhere else or better still catch a bus.

As for the traffic lights at the Myer end of the share-way, what idiot allowed those to remain, once most cars pass Petrie St, they use the roadway was a drag strip to beat the changing lights.

What I would like to see is the removal of those lights and a dedicated police presence (not just sit in their pretty marked cars outside the football club) to get the message across. Now is the time for fines and consequences, before someone is seriously injured, it’s been finished long enough for the message to get through.

God knows how the tram terminus in the middle of Northbourne is ever going to work.

bringontheevidence 12:49 pm 06 Jul 16

The only issue with the shared space on Bunda Street is the ‘painted’ sections. The raised sections work pretty well.

Shared spaces only really work if drivers feel like they are driving on the pavement. i.e. it’s clearly a ‘people space’ first and foremost, not a ‘car space’. The raised sections of Bunda street feel like that. There is not curb, no clear edge of tho footpath etc.

The painted sections are the opposite. Because there are still curbs separating the footpath from the road, the road is still bitumen rather than paving, and there is street furniture (the rusty planter boxes) on large sections, it still feels like ‘car space’, where cars have right of way.

They should have raised and paved the whole length of the shared zone if they wanted it to work as intended.

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