Shared Space: A Transportation Free for All

Sonnenfelsplatz

Bicyclist, pedestrians, drivers sharing one road without traffic signals, signage, crosswalks, and lane markings sounds like a catastrophe in the making, right? Maybe not. The concept is called shared space, an innovative idea conceived by Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer. Shared space relies completely on intuitive thinking. By removing the usual street control devices, each commuter is forced to become more aware of their surroundings and actions, creating more cautious and thoughtful travelers. Shared space is essentially an open air plaza designed for various kinds of commuters to share.

For example, when a driver is making their way through the city, they accelerate hoping to make it through the next light, and break when the light turns red. In a shared space drivers will have no choice but to drive slower as they negotiate the space with bicyclist and pedestrians who have the right of way. As a payoff to the driver, they no longer have to wait at lengthy stop lights. There is evidence that shared space actually cuts down on driving time.

 

Shared-Space

 

Shared space has been implemented in many European cities for the past 3 decades. US cities like Chicago and Seattle have recently taken the leap, and now possibly Pittsburg will join the movement. Why should a city want implement such a drastic, some say risky, change? Shared space has been proven to slowdown automobile traffic, reduce accidents, and lessen travel times. Moreover, slow and active transit attracts shops, sidewalk cafes, and community events, resulting in safer neighborhoods and increased commerce.