Shared Space Or Separation
There is growing realisation that our streets have become far too
dominated by the car.
When seeking to reclaim streets for people, there are two options available: shared space and
With shared space, also known as the woonerf and home zone, there is
no distinction between the path and the road – cars and people share the
Cars are required to drive more slowly, and no longer have priority.
The separation approach seeks to keep pedestrians and cars as far
apart as possible.
Radburn, New Jersey, was the first community designed around
separation. Here there are two separate networks – houses front
onto the main pedestrian paths, with the secondary road network hidden
behind the backs of houses.
A Question Of Density
The advantages of separating pedestrians from cars are many - once
you get rid of the cars from a street, you also get rid of the air
pollution, noise and danger they bring.
These advantages become even greater as densities increase.
Every extra car driving on a shared space street impacts on that street, whereas the
pedestrian streets of the Radburn model are unaffected by traffic
However, there is a proviso. Separation only works where there
is sufficient foot traffic. Otherwise, pedestrians can feel
vulnerable without the extra eyes of drivers.
I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.
- John Cage
Thus where densities are low, and the car is the primary mode of
travel, shared space is the better option.
But at higher densities, where walking and cycling are the main modes
of travel, separation becomes the preferred choice.