July 24, 2013
We came across this story of an imaginative “shared space” that transformed the town of Poynton, England. The town is centered on the junction of its main commercial street and a major highway, but its town center has been in economic decline, dominated by a noisy and congested stream of traffic that includes many trucks.
When the junction was due for reconstruction, local leaders realized that widening the road to handle more vehicles was not the best way to improve Poynton’s situation. Instead, they turned to shared space principles to devise an intersection that fosters equality, sharing, and cooperation among all people using the roadway, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit, and motorists. Poynton’s “double-roundel” design reduced the number of vehicle lanes, eliminated the traffic signals, made the curb lines less definitive, and greatly expanding walking areas.
The reconstruction was completed in 2012, and today, the double-roundel successfully accommodates the busy highway traffic while softening its impacts on the village. Traffic moves continuously and calmly, residents feel comfortable crossing the street, crash rates have fallen, and local businesses report widespread increases in foot traffic. All of this was accomplished without increases in congestion, important because the highway continues to handle regional passenger and freight traffic.
Implementing a successful shared-space street requires quality planning, design, and funding. In Poynton’s case, local leaders spent years planning the project and securing more than $6 million to finance it. They thought carefully about a variety of measures needed to make it a success, such as constructing gateways on the roads leading up to the junction compelling drivers to downshift from a highway mindset to urban driving.
Should Philadelphia begin to envision a shared-space future for some of our streets? What locations in our city might one day benefit from shared space design?