Shared Space: Safe or Dangerous?

Wednesday, December 15 by JerryFoster

from Shared Space: Safe or Dangerous?Township Council recently adopted the shared space concept as fundamental to the lawsuit settlement with InterCap over the new Princeton Junction Transit Village. Under this concept, motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians share the roadway as peers. But is it safe?

Four European experts reported results of their studies of the shared space experience in the Netherlands in 2007 at the Walk21 Conference held in Toronto. Shared space was implemented several locations between 1998 and 2001, with studies published between 2003 and 2007.

Overall, “reported accidents have decreased substantially.” In one location, however, minor injury collisions persisted, and “bicyclists were overrepresented”.  Significantly, “police report only a (minor) part of the accidents. Particularly bicycle and pedestrian accidents are often not reported to the police. This means that reliable and valid conclusions regarding the safety of cyclists and pedestrians cannot be made.”

What makes shared space work? “At low speeds people have more time for communication and the interpretation of verbal and non-verbal utterances.”

What keeps it from working? “Children and people with a visual or mental handicap cannot be expected to comply. Also, the elderly are not always able to anticipate and react in time, especially not when it is crowded and many things happen in a short period. This group (in total 25% percent of the population!) runs a substantially raised risk.”

How do people feel about shared space? “Most respondents do not think the situations are safe. Both car drivers and bicyclists and pedestrians are critical about it. In Haren remarkably many people (90%) demand a clear choice regarding the position of the bicycle: either on a bicycle lane or on the carriageway. The experts prefer the bicyclist on the carriageway; the public prefers a separate recognizable lane.”

The WWBPA supports the shared space concept, but recognizes that to work, all roadway users must be provided with subtle guidance as to the preferred positioning within the space. Bicyclists must be encouraged to stay out of the way of opening car doors (the “door zone”), such as through the use of a special color or pattern of pavement to guide where they ride.

The current (pre-settlement) language in the redevelopment ordinance calls for buffered bike lanes to achieve this goal. This goal can be achieved in the shared space concept, but the language regarding bike lanes is proposed to be removed. Please contact our public officials with your questions or concerns regarding the safety of our proposed new shared space.

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Tale of Two Engineers – One Visionary, One Recovering

Thursday, December 2 by JerryFoster

A revolution is underway in how towns are being redesigned for livability, and it’s playing out right here in West Windsor. The late Hans Monderman launched a movement for better safety without signs and signals, while in the Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, another engineer realizes that “Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), recounts the work of the late Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer who held to a maxim: “When you treat people like idiots, they’ll behave like idiots.” In appropriate settings, he removed the signs and signals that tell drivers what to do. His goal? “I don’t want traffic behavior, I want social behavior.” His work underlies the design for the promenade in the new transit village west of the train tracks.

In Confessions of a Recovering Engineer, Charles Marohn relates his professional experience “convincing people that, when it came to their road, I knew more than they did.” Why? “I had books and books of standards to follow.” Finally, “In retrospect I understand that this was utter insanity. Wider, faster, treeless roads not only ruin our public places, they kill people.”

This realization is slow in coming to our Rt 571 Main Street design, where the state guidelines are in place but the design hasn’t taken them into consideration.

Please help the county engineers learn from the transit village engineers by supporting the WWBPA’s recommendations for Rt 571 Main Street – slower speed, medians with pedestrian refuges and a pedestrian-activated signal that stops traffic at the crossing at Sherbrooke Drive.

This redesign is our chance to make drivers comfortable with the slower speed – just posting a lower speed limit will not effectively slow traffic. Our tale of two West Windsors might have the happy ending of a pedestrian-friendly Main Street and transit village promenade, leading to higher property values for us all.

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West Windsor’s New Woonerf

Wednesday, November 24 by JerryFoster

PJ Promenade as Shared SpaceTownship Council adopted a new concept Monday night for shared streets, also called a woonerf, for the Princeton Junction Transit Village. What’s a woonerf, and how does it work?

Developed by Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman, a woonerf is a street where pedestrians and bicyclists share the roadway with motorists as equals.  This concept goes by a number of other names, such as Living Streets, Home Zones or shared space.

The safety of such spaces depends on extremely slow speeds and one-on-one human eye contact to negotiate movement through the space. Read about one town’s experience with removing traffic lights.

The WWBPA made several recommendations to improve the bikeability of the proposed area, including more bike parking at the Farmers Market and in residential parking structures, as well as requiring back-in diagonal parking for improved safety.

The WWBPA is confident that this plan, if built as shown in the pattern book, will be eminently walkable, and will provide those bicyclists who are comfortable in traffic with a wonderful place to stop and enjoy the amenities, like the Farmers Market. We are hopeful that motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians will embrace the new shared street and quickly learn to navigate without traditional traffic control.

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