Mark, the proprietor of As Easy As Riding A Bike, used to be ‘a relentless optimist, holding the belief that cycling is just such a naturally brilliant way of getting around that, sooner or later, everyone else is going to realize it, and leap onto the bicycles that are gathering cobwebs in their garages.’
Realising this vision was perhaps a little optimistic, Mark revised his stance and adopted a more ‘realistic’ approach.
As Easy As Riding A Bike is full of interesting pieces – and we particularly enjoyed his essay on shared space, a topic close to the hearts of most Londoners (see our posts on Exhibition Road or Soho streets). Mark’s passion and knowledge are evident in what is a comprehensive article.
Mark’s post looks at how space in London is being compromised, distorted and ultimately shared – looking at some interesting international case studies by way of comparison. This topic has been a hugely popular one recently – with Movement For Liveable London, ibikelondon and even BBC Radio 4 covering it.
In the words of the Movement for Liveable London,
‘The concept of shared space seeks to improve the way a street functions as a place by reducing segregation between pedestrians and vehicles and minimising traffic related signs, signals and street furniture.’
The struggle between man and vehicle is the dominant theme here – and it’s interesting to note from Mark’s photographs the sheer extent to which an area such as Piccadilly Circus has evolved over time, with pedestrian’s freedom to roam slowly squeezed and minimised as larger roads have eroded walking space.
Amidst sprouting traffic lights, signposts and yellow lines, Mark says ‘it is the emergence of the motor car, and its gradual dominance of our street environment, that is responsible both for the declining quality, and the increase in rules and regulations.’
For Mark, the car is putting unbearable strain on the relationship between us and the space in which we live and work.
‘It is quite clear, to me at least, that if you don’t take action to tame the motor vehicle – not to get rid of it, but to tame it – then you won’t see a civilized street.’
Mark’s is an advocate for introducing a consistent set of rules to which everyone – on legs and wheels – should adhere:
Rules are necessary to protect the quality of our street environments – be they no parking or waiting, or no entry signs, or limited permeability for certain types of motor vehicles.’
Rules ultimately make things safer, but at the same time they provide guidelines from which to expand. Mark is not impressed by the new set up on Exhibition Road in West Kensington. He describes it as:
‘A desperate, double failure – but one that has resulted in the deputy chair of Transport for London proclaiming ‘shared space’ as some universal panacea for nearly every single road in London.’
Mark criticises the way in which the UK has simply followed others (the Dutch for example), replicating their tactics for sharing space but with a severe lack of thought for the relevant surroundings and the resulting implications locally. You can’t just throw moving vehicles and walking people together and expect it to work. These processes need to be progressively thought through.
Shared space is something we thought really carefully about when designing East Village. Away from open roads, shared courtyards are one of the things we think can have a positive impact on the way in which members of a community interact with each other and with the space in which they live. What do you think? What other ways can planners and architects ensure that pedestrians and residents have the space they need? We’d love to hear your thoughts.