Thursday, 20 May 2010

Shared Space

Are you familiar with the road traffic concept of shared space?
Until very recently, I wasn't - but then I learnt that the road that I cross twice every day on my way to and from the train station is supposed to be just that, shared space.

Shared by cars, buses, bikes and... pedestrians, me being one of them.

The West exit of our train station was only opened last year in September. Before, everybody who wanted to take a train or arrived at the station had to use the only exit, facing town centre, and if you happened to live (like myself) on the other side of the rail tracks, in the Western part of the town, you walked down a road, through a very noisy and dirty tunnel, and had to walk back the road on the other side of the tracks.

So, that West exit was (and still is) very welcome to a lot of people, including me.

What is not welcome, though, is the road that cuts across just before you enter the station.
There are no traffic lights there, no zebra crossing or anything else to indicate to those cars and buses racing past (and race they do!) that this is a point where people really have to cross the road, not out of can't-be-botheredness to use a different path, but simply because this is where you have to go in order to get to your train.

Several letters have appeared in our local paper, complaining about the lack of safety for pedestrians; there are children, too, who use the West exit on their way to and from school, and of course it all happens during rush hour.
Last week, someone suggested that the town council did not have enough money left for a bucket of white paint and we should set up a donation fund for poor Ludwigsburg.

After this letter, an article appeared in the paper, explaining that it was certainly not lack of money or not being safety-conscious that lead to us not having a zebra crossing there, but that the whole area around the West exit was paved with different stones to indicate that this is, in fact, shared space.

They went on to explain that the concept of shared space builds on the considerate and polite behaviour of ALL participants in road traffic; that pedestrians should make eye-contact with car drivers before they cross the road, and so on.

Have you ever been to Germany?
Have you ever seen what people here are capable of as soon as they get behind a steering wheel? (The area where I live is Daimler and Porsche country. Need I say more?)
The words "considerate" and "polite" simply do not appear in most people's vocabulary when it comes to driving - they need to be there FIRST and FAST.

Today, I have put the shared space to a test.
I looked the driver of the approaching car in the eye and stepped on the road (of course on the specially paved part of the road). I took another step and then another, always looking at the driver.
Had I not stopped, he would have gone right over my feet.

Shared space indeed.

By the way - when you see this, you've made it:

this is what you reach after you cross the road.

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