Accidents by Design: The Holmes Report into Shared (Road) Space

On Friday 1st July Lord Chris Holmes published detailed research into so called “shared space”.  This is the architectural conceit, the planning folly, which proposes that the removal of kerbs, road markings, controlled crossings such as zebras and pelicans and so on leads to a better experience for all users of our streets.  To be clear this means no road or pavement, no safe space, buses and blind people, toddlers and trucks sharing the same space.  Unsurprisingly, the research findings do not support a sunny view of shared space.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents reported a negative experience of shared space. Even more worryingly, thirty-five per cent said they actively avoided shared space, that’s over a third of people planned out of their local community, their local shops, their local support services.  This type of totalitarian planning would make even an old style Soviet feel some shame.  The research also indicated a significant under reporting of accidents in these shared spaces.

The findings are stark, the solution clear, an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes until thorough impact assessments can be conducted.  This must be combined with a central record of accident data including “courtesy crossings”, which must be defined and monitored.  There is also a need for updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.  

Has so called “shared space” achieved an inclusive experience for all? No, it most certainly has not.  Has it opened up our high streets, increased safety and usability? Again, no it has not. Shared space is not a safe place nor a pleasant place, it has turned high streets into traffic free for alls, it has caused confusion, chaos and catastrophe.

In the words of survey respondents, shared space is:

 “Lethally dangerous” (Pedestrian)

“Absolute nightmare that I avoid if I can.” (Driver)

“Shared space is a false promise with poor delivery” (Cyclist) 


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Pity there are no comments about this new dangerous "fashion" which incidentally is being implemented in a new development just off Wilmer way (you know near our wonderful new bridge) - i know this because Notting Hill's architects got a grilling about it during the Trinity at Bowes meeting.

Certain people in Palmers Green were pushing for a Woonerf at the Triangle, its a pitty David Hughes is not a member to refute the report - perhaps Karl Brown (you are the same Karl of Fox Lane and district residents association fame?) could pass this message on to him?


Both David Hughes and Karl Brown are members of this site - they may not read every item posted but, should you want to contact either, you could click on their name above. In the page that opens there is a message option in the left hand column (envelope icon).

You may be thinking of The Palmers Green Festival, Broomfield Blues, Proms in the Park, The Palmers Greenery, Pinkham Way Alliance, BHORA. Palmers Scream, Play Streets or some other. But I would commend them all to readers whatever.

I believe that a shared space option for Green Lanes close to the Triangle is indeed an option to be considered as part of Cycle Enfield. The consultation, supported by options / draft plans, opens this coming week at The Fox. We can then find out. There has been, I believe, some pressure supporting this direction from the Business Association, Conservation Group members and some of the more pro-car local residents. David Hughes has long favoured the general concept based on equality of use of road space by whatever mode of transport as well as ease of crossing in the immediate area for those who find getting to the nearest engineered crossing difficult. I had believed Enfield Council had taken advice some years back that had said there were too many cars for shared space to be viable at the Triangle. But that’s all no more than tittle tattle.

More generally I would tend to be cautious of any survey based on someone’s own web site, where the responses are not reflective of the population as a whole (eg 10% blind, 40% disabled in some form) and where the originator talks of “planning folly” and “totalitarian planning” which may not imply an objective viewpoint to the task. I recall much RNIB input to HMG’s overall approach a couple of years back and of course safety for all needs to be considered in good planning.

Personally I like the immediate introduction to the DoT’s 2014 “Street Design for All”,

Most streets have been designed, or adapted, over the last fifty years or so primarily for the movement of motor traffic. This function continues to be important but it should no longer dominate in the way it used to – it needs to be balanced with the street’s place function.


Enhancing the sense of the place and maintaining efficient and safe movement of traffic can be achieved by careful design.

The London Plan articulates very well the multi-needs of a (London) town centre, it is certainly more than a road with shops on which in turn need car parking. That takes us right to the heart of the current, local Cycle Enfield debate.

Having been mid pelican crossing in Palmers Green yesterday when a van went straight through on red and today in London when a people mover did exactly the same with me mid zebra, the issues of sharing this public space safely seem to go well beyond shared space zones.


Connecting the communities of Bowes Park and Bounds Green in north London.

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