During my lunch break today I headed down to see how the Fort Street shared space is working. The weather was good so I spent around half an hour watching how the place works. Overall I was pretty impressed by how the area works. People generally have the confidence to walk down the middle of the street, the cars generally travel at a slow speed (around one in four went a bit fast for my liking) and the mix of pedestrian and cars, a kind of glorious chaos, actually seems to work. It’s also interesting to see how the area is starting to change as a result of the shared space. The Kebabs on Queen and Sumo Sushi stores you can see in the photo above have pushed seating out onto the street.
What the Fort Street shared space highlights though is how bad pedestrians have it in other parts of the city. Not far behind where this photo was taken is the corner of High Street and Shortland Street, an incredibly busy intersection for pedestrians but with no traffic calming measures for vehicles zipping down the Shortland Street hill. It’s only a matter of time before something goes wrong there. Plus the bizarre nature of High Street, with its narrow (and generally overflowing with pedestrians) footpaths so we can provide a handful of on-street parking spaces.
For future shared spaces there is one thing that I think could make them better, and that is a noisier road surface. Not only would this slow drivers down (nothing like a rough noisy surface to slow you down) but it would also ensure that when you’re walking down the middle of a shared space in the same direction as vehicles you’d actually be able to hear them come up behind you, rather than feeling somewhat unsettled and constantly looking over your shoulder to see if there’s anything behind you. I’m not quite sure how you could achieve such a surface that’s still comfortable to walk across – while ensuring the noise isn’t so loud as to annoy people in the area, but I think it’s worth looking into.
I think the shared spaces will be really popular as the weather improves. It certainly felt like a really nice place to enjoy my lunch.