Jeremy made a good point a few days back when he blogged about us transport advocates being a bit too negative at times. I think we have to be critical when things really are going wrong, but at the same time that needs to be balanced by some good news stories. One particularly excellent development in recent times in Auckland City Council’s “Shared Space” concept. The latest area where this concept, which revolves around the idea of taking away the distinction between the roadway and the footpath, is Darby Street. The council is currently seeking feedback on its proposal to turn Darby Street into a Shared Space.
The map below shows where Darby Street is located in Auckland’s CBD: pretty much as central as it gets. Despite its very central location, Darby Street is currently in a fairly poor state. There’s parking along it, which takes up a lot of space and creates footpaths that really are far too narrow for an area like that. It’s also used as a shortcut by people trying to get from Queen Street through to Victoria Street – so they can bypass the traffic lights at that major intersection (which do take forever to change).
Below is a photo of what Darby Street currently looks like: This is not the only street that Auckland City Council have identified for upgrading to a “shared space”. We also have the fairly well advanced Elliott Street and Fort Street proposals. The Darby Street proposal is likely to look something like this: Interestingly, when all these shared space ideas emerged last year, Darby Street was originally proposed as a link to be fully pedestrianised. For some reason Council stepped back from this, and have gone with the share space idea instead.
As I said above, while I am a huge fan of shared spaces, in some ways they are a more politically viable and pragmatic alternative to full pedestrianisation, in cases where full pedestrianisation would be very difficult (such as requiring irregular access to buildings, for example). However, in the case of Darby Street it would seem as though there isn’t really a need at all for vehicular access, so we could have got away with full pedestrianisation here if council had had a bit more guts. The other issue with having this road as a shared space, rather than a pedestrian mall, is that cars are still likely to use it as a short-cut between Queen Street and Victoria Street – whereas in actual fact you probably want as few vehicles as possible travelling along the space. Perhaps a solution there might be to reverse the direction that vehicles travel along Darby Street, so that it’s pretty useless as any short cut?
Speaking more generally again, here’s an excellent video by Auckland City Council on the shared space idea:
And a two-part video on shared spaces from England:
I think there’s an interesting debate to be had about where shared spaces are more appropriate and where full pedestrianisation is more appropriate.