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Shared space – a new design philosophy for inner cities?

For some years, in Germany as well as in other European countries, there has been an intense professional, public and political discussion on the question whether the so-called shared space principle may contribute to improving traffic conditions in small and mediums towns and large cities. In this respect, the presentation of shared space to the public is often highly overstated by its advocates. Moreover, the most different solutions are meanwhile mixed up in an undifferentiated way under the buzzword of shared space. In the worst case, this will lead to shared space being interpreted as a supposed panacea for all inner-city traffic problems and praised as a measure for the general improvement of road safety.

That is why German Insurers Accident Research (Unfallforschung der Versicherer - UDV) argues for putting the discussion on shared space, which is frequently held very emotionally, on an objective and sound basis. Therefore, UDV prepared the booklet “Shared Space – Eine neue Gestaltungsphilosophie für Innenstädte?“ (“Shared space – a new design philosophy for inner cities?”). The new booklet renders assistance to planners and decision-makers by providing numerous examples from Germany and abroad, so as to bring the professional discussion on shared space on a more objective level and to support local decision-making and design processes. Moreover, the booklet contains general recommendations to be observed in shared space projects.

Shared space seems appropriate, in the first place, for smaller main shopping streets, local shopping streets or main village streets, which are characterized by a high volume of pedestrian and/or cycle traffic and a high need for pedestrians to cross streets. It is advisable to observe exposure levels of no more than about 14 000 motor vehicles/24h, so as to avoid any predominance of motor vehicle traffic in selected shared space areas. Moreover, such areas should be as short as possible and free from parking vehicles. It is recommended to choose a one-level design, so that even visually handicapped persons can find their way. However, to ensure efficiency and road safety, it may be necessary to separate the different traffic modes or to create roundabouts, depending on local circumstances.

In addition, the booklet contains 10 points to be observed in connection with shared space:

  • Shared space is no planning instrument, but an attitude with the objective of mutual respect, which – as far as road design is concerned – may be referred to as a planning philosophy.

  • Shared space has the objective of strengthening the sojourn quality and functionality, in particular, of main shopping streets in terms of urban development.

  • Shared space is designed locally together with local residents.

  • Shared space allows for the interests of all categories of persons and users.

  • As far as possible, all traffic modes use the same area.

  • Shared space does without any traffic lights and largely without any signposting and markings; however, in the case of low traffic volume, it should be designated as a traffic calmed area (Verkehrsberuhigter Bereich) and otherwise as a traffic calmed shopping street (Verkehrsberuhigter Geschäftsbereich; 20/10 km/h zone).

  • Shared space requires efficient and safe traffic handling.

  • Shared space requires excellent visual links; therefore, stationary traffic has largely to be relocated.

  • Shared space is subjected to success controls which meet scientific requirements.

  • In any planning road safety must play a dominant role.

If these 10 points are consistently adhered to, shared space may help promote mutual respect in traffic in certain street sections and squares.

The booklet is available for downloading on the website of German Insurers Accident Research (www.udv.de). Also, printed copies of the booklet may be ordered free of charge by e-mail (k.brandenstein@gdv.de).

Further information:
Jörg Ortlepp
Phone: +49 / 30 / 2020-5829
j.ortlepp@gdv.de