Follow us on Twitter

Shared spaces for busy intersections

All our shared spaces so far have been on relatively quiet local roads: Elliott Street, Fort Street and Lorne Street in the city centre and the newly bypassed Totara Ave in New Lynn. In the UK things are a little more ambitious, as highlighted in a recent Better Cities & Towns article:

It’s been nearly a year since a major traffic light was removed at an intersection with 26,000 vehicles per day, heavily used by truck traffic in Poynton, Cheshire, England. A section of the town’s High Street was also renovated so that pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles all mix. The volume of vehicles is nearly double the upper limit for “shared space” intersections according to industry standards.

“This was the most ambitious shared space project — certainly in the UK — any anywhere else that I am aware of,” says Ben Hamilton-Baillie, a British urban designer who led the project.

Accidents have gone down so far, although Hamilton-Baillie cautions that it is too early to draw conclusions on safety. Traffic queues have been drastically reduced, despite an increase in pedestrian space of more than 100 percent.

Here’s what the intersection looked like previously (H/T Gordon Price):poynton-3Compared to now:poynton_selection2Perhaps what is most interesting is that traffic flow has actually improved, as well as safety improvements and a vastly nicer pedestrian environment.

The corner of Quay Street and Hobson Street, outside the entrance to the viaduct and a place where huge volumes of pedestrians are treated like scum, would be a great place for something like this.


View Larger Map

The possibilities are endless…

37 comments to Shared spaces for busy intersections

  • Bbc

    Get rid of that viaduct and suddenly there’s no reason for most of that traffic to be there.

  • Chris

    Remove the Lower Hobson St flyover (as planned) and make the viaduct harbour pedestrian only, and the intersection will be fixed.

  • At the very least there needs to be double phasing and a barnes dance on that Quay St/Hobson St intersection. Pretty much every time I’m there (including just a few days ago) you have to wait for what seems like an eternity to cross. Not a good look considering that the Viaduct and Wynward are places we like to funnel tourists (and locals) to.

  • SteveC

    Quenn/Mayoral would have to be a prime candidate

  • SteveC

    of course that should have been “Queen”

    this treatment presents an opportunity to reclaim some of the waste space of free left turns (which have NO place in an urban environment IMHO) with street furniture, coffee kiosks and food vendors

  • qwerty

    be interested to see how this works in reality. at 26,000 vehicles per day there cant be much sharing going on. it does look quite clearly deliniated so maybe the peds keep well away when its busy.

    after a bit of poking around on the net it appears that it isnt a true shared space:-

    “…..It is neither intended nor expected that pedestrians will “wander all over the place”. That may have been the original idea, but after feedback from and consultation with local people, it was agreed to provide four dedicated crossing points, at the points where the S2 sections enter the roundels….”

    it looks like what they have actually done is remove some of the priortiy controls for vehicles so that they are more free to make movements.

  • Stu Donovan

    I think this looks fantastic – I’d suggest that the key feature of the new configuration is the use of highly-textured paving to create a visual/aural cue for vehicles to slow down as they approach and travel through the intersection(s).

    Whether this meets the technical definition of a shared space or not is, I think, a rather semantic debate. The key thing is that the design seems to find a more optimal balance between movement and place that suits the surrounding activities and environment.

    • qwerty

      whether or not it meets the definition of a shared space is the whole point. it is being trumpeted as a shared space but unfortunately it isnt and could well be a white elephant. what you are desribing is more akin to speed calming measures.

      i dont understand how you could state that “…..the design seems to find a more optimal balance between movement and place that suits the surrounding activities and environment….” with absolutely no evidence to base it on and no substantiated results.. that sounds like a tree hugger response.

  • Stu Donovan

    P.s. It’s also a good example of how roundabouts, when appropriately designed to manage vehicle speeds (e.g. with paving), can support pedestrian movements. Tauranga has a good example of this kind of thinking, where the roundabout at the end of the Springs Road (downtown) has a giant pedestrian crossing through the middle.

    • qwerty

      again, roundabouts being used as a speed calming device. they are very bad at throughput if the different legs are unbalanced. did you not read the previous comments whereby it was noted that pedesrian throughput in this “shared space” was not very good and they had to formalise a number of dedicated crossing points, which undermines the whole philosophy of a shared space.

  • harrymc

    Love the comment about pedestrians being treated like scum but then pedestrians are treated like scum in most of Auckland.
    The city planners regard pedestrians as a nuisance – walking across roads, holding up traffic!

    • bbc

      They’re busily installed yellow tactile pads on either side of Britomart Place, clearly spending a lot of money and although it is unfinished yet I expect it to remain without a proper zebra pedestrian crossing, rather yet another cop out with an aptly named pedestrian refuge. It’s although Auckland Transport and Auckland Council are seriously scared of installed pedestrian crossings in Auckland. If the city waffles on about making a pedestrian friendly core and being the most livable city in the world but can’t even bring itself to install a measly pedestrian crossing then it really shows we are a LONG LONG way from growing up as a city.

    • Stu Donovan

      Yes, I’m afraid to say that in my experience pedestrians are treated like scum in Auckland.

      I’m writing this from Brisbane, which is if anything a more car-dependent city than Auckland. Yet even here they seem to be able to provide far superior pedestrian facilities than in Auckland.

      While pedestrians in Auckland are currently treated like scum, I’m somewhat pleased to say that in the 13 years I’ve lived in Auckland the situation has improved marginally. But only very marginally.

      • qwerty

        scum? stop being a sensationalist. just because pedestrians have to wait at a crossing until they get a green man (the same as every where else on the planet so they dont get driven over) doesnt mean they are treated like scum.

        if you want to make these sorts of comments head over to EyeOnAuckland.com you will get on with Craig and Sydney pretty well.

        • Many intersections don’t have pedestrian crossings on parts of them meaning pedestrians often have to make time consuming detours (time consuming due to having to wait to cross 2 or 3 of the other legs of the intersection). In many other cities intersections cater for pedestrians much better often through things like permanent pedestrian phases in the same way as many intersections have things like permanent turning phases even if there isn’t a vehicle to use them. In Auckland if you are just a few seconds late getting to some intersections and pushing the button, you can have to wait for quite some time for the ped phase to roll around again, permanent ped phases mean if you are close you can chose to run to get it if you want to to save waiting for another few minutes.

        • Qwerty, I have to ask if you’ve actually been anywhere else on the planet? In many countries and unsignalised intersection gives pedestrians priority, they don’t need green men because drivers always have to give way to pedestrians.

        • Stu Donovan

          Hi qwerty,

          I’d suggest you look up the meaning of “tongue in cheek”. Then I’d suggest you have a drink and try to chill out a little. Once you’re seeing things with greater clarity then you might realise how silly it is to tell a contributor to a blog to stop commenting on said blog. There’s some free advice for you!

          P.s. Some of my earlier posts have highlighted intersections in Auckland where pedestrian crossings have been dropped for no technical reason, i.e. adding in a pedestrian crossing would not affect vehicles at all. Check out intersection of Kitchener and Victoria, for example.

        • Max

          There’s a massive difference between providing for safe pedestrian crossing locations, and providing for safe and convenient pedestrian crossing locations. I’d suspect that the vast majority of Auckland’s pedestrian crossings fulfill the first sentence in the “by the book, look only at the immediate surroundings” sense, and vastly fail on the second, wider point, which is that if you only provide such crossings where it is convenient for car traffic to have them, then you don’t have walkability, you have car dominance.

          Case in point: Auckland signalised pedestrian crossings do NOT automatically have pedestrian phases. It is the pedestrians who have to activate them (“beg button”, another word that may aggravate you). That is not balanced – cars get green phases if they arrive by chances during the right time. They don’t get an “all red” until they trigger the induction loop.

          In short, yes, Auckland is hostile to pedestrians.

          • Ari

            I agree that when it comes to pedestrians, safety is considered but convenience rarely is.

            however regarding Matt’s comment it is silly to suggest permanent pedestrian demands when there are none half the time. pedestrians have no greater delay than any vehicle on a side road. the lights sit in green along the main road until a vehicle hits the.sensor on the side road in the same way a pedestrian pushes the demand button. they both have to wait.

            I wonder if we will adopt the “left on red” rule as this could make for some interesting behaviour change in drivers.

          • Ari that is complete BS as there are many intersections where the lights aren’t activated by side roads. I know of a couple where there is a permanent phase for driveways even though cars only them are only there a couple of times a day. If it is silly to have permanent pedestrian phases then why do other cities do it? You display classic traffic engineering of thinking it is all about pushing as many vehicles through a location without regard for anything else.

          • Ari

            Matt, it isn’t BS. it is the standard. I can’t think of a single intersection in Auckland that has a side road with a permanent demand. I would add the proviso that some quiet side streets do auto demand overnight which is due to sensor faults . same problem when there are road works and the vehicle sensors are ripped out and the phases need to be auto demanded. but outside those conditions there is no reason to auto demand a side street or a pedestrian crossing if there is no one there. that’s like saying we should leave our torch on all the time because we will need it at some stage.

            based on your statments I don’t think you are qualified to make comments on this, but different countries (and regions within countries) have different road rules as well as different traffic signal systems and different traffic conditions. you can’t fairly compare NZ to the US or Europe anymore that we can compare us to Mumbai. US and Europe tend toward fixed time systems which are easier to coordinate with pedestrian phases. NZ’s unique conventions as well as a variable time traffic system makes traffic management more challenging. at the moment I think only Queen St has auto demand because pedestrians are the dominant mode. there are few other locations that have that concentration of pedestrians.

            I never said anything about pushing as many cars through as possible. that is just your closeminded blinkered view coloring your interpretation. I simply think everyone should be treated equally in proportion to volume of mode. this is an entirely fair approach instead of blindly imposing a pro pedestrian policy in an car dominated city and not realising the huge safety implications. we will get there eventually. it will just take time.

          • starnius

            So why isn’t there auto-pedestrian green ACROSS those quiet side roads who presumably get red as a default? Also, limiting the argument to some individual side roads – when the problem is really across the whole town with its many, many BUSY side roads – seems to be a bit beside the point.

            “this is an entirely fair approach instead of blindly imposing”

            Ari, if you are accusing others of using using emotional words, why not try to be more calm about it yourself?

            Also, your argument seems to be that because “there are few other locations that have that concentration of pedestrians” (which I think is a very false statement, even in this car-dominated city), then we SHOULD acknowledge that status quo by keeping the systems and procedures that encouraged the car dominance in the first place. You also claim that there are “huge safety implications” – of what? Of giving pedestrian signals more pedestrian focus?

          • Nice circular logic their Ari, Pedestrians don’t want to walk in areas because we make it hard for them to do so by imposing vehicle focused traffic signals so the response is to make put more priority in those places for vehicles which leads to even less pedestrians.

            Also of course I’m qualified to comment on it, I’m a pedestrian who is sick of of being treated like the least important user of a street, the difference is I don’t have to blindly follow guidelines set down in some engineering manual. You say that other countries have different systems then don’t you think we should look at why they do it the way they do rather than just saying our way is right. Perhaps they put more value into having a good balance between road users rather than working to a goal of maximum throughput.

          • Ari why can’t we question the standard? The standard might be, shall we say, sub-optimal, or worse for a particular application. It was only written by humans, it can be changed by humans too. The best engineers in history have been creative, not just rule followers.

  • S

    To be fair, some parts of the CBD are fairly good for pedestrians, those parts being the shared spaces, Queen St from Aotea Square northwards, and Symonds St around the University. Of course, this is nothing compared to the rest of Auckland. I have walked along Great South Rd from Papakura Train Station towards Drury, and it is obvious that the infrastructure is clearly designed for the benefit of cars, even though there are a not inconsiderable number of pedestrians. I wouldn’t complain about this because there are clearly more cars than pedestrians, but some of the intersections are dangerous, like the intersection of Great South Rd and Opaheke Rd: http://goo.gl/maps/FwimO . That’s a free left turn that cars take at 50 km/h, but a pedestrian has to be brave to cross there as it takes a long time to get to the refuge. (note the ridiculous barrier just behind the green light just up the road that attempts to control pedestrian movements, as well!)

    I couldn’t help but gain the impression while on my little walk described above that there was a bit of dangerous driving going on, as well, which I’m tempted to label as the ‘Auckland driver’s mindset’, in which the car has absolute priority and every other car or road user is the enemy. A little caution when approaching intersections like the above would make up for the bonkers intersection design, but that might be too optimistic on my part. Also, drivers turn off Great South Road into the many narrow side streets as fast as they can, and if they’re turning right they cut the corner across the other lane if there is no car there. This is hazardous if they have not checked for a pedestrian who might be crossing and is unfortunate enough to be on the road at the time! I had a few close calls.

    It’s a bit unfair to single out Auckland, though. I think that most if not all of NZ’s cities are laid out as if pedestrians were mere afterthoughts, disturbing the traffic planners’ lovely designs for car movements. It is simply that Auckland has a larger population and therefore busier roads.

    • Stu Donovan

      I think the more relevant comparison is not “Auckland” vs “NZ”, but “Auckland” vs “cities overseas.”

      After all, Auckland’s not competing with Hokitika for young people and migrants, it’s competing with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Singapore, Vienna, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Stockholm, San Francisco, Vancouver, Portland, Seattle …

      Or at least that’s my take on it.

  • Peter H

    Plenty of ex Auckland families living in Cambridge, where the local council thinks it is normal to have pedestrian cross.

  • mv

    I think pedestrians in Auckland aren’t treated like scum compared to other cities, in plenty of cities I’ve been to they don’t even wait for pedestrians anywhere, even with the green man on they still make the turn!. Pedestrians in Auckland just need to not cross on the Red man, personally i see so many pedestrians (Especially tourists who are from countries with LHD vehicles) crossing on the red man/flashing red, of course i’m going to beep at you if you’re crossing at the wrong time!! I do support making a shared space in certain areas though, one spot that popped into mind is the very end of queen st where it joins onto quay, its a very busy pedestal area and will only get busier

  • Ari

    When I hear unqualified, exaggerated opinions like “pedestrians are treated like scum” I lose all respect for the person making the comment. statements like these contribute little to the discussion when they are mixed in with reasonable discussion in what we can do to make Auckland better. Pedestrians are not treated like scum in Auckland. It all depends on perspective. however we can claim that pedestrians are not given priority beyond areas where pedestrians outnumber vehicles.

    Readers of ATB represent a minority of the population. we are pro-PT and realise the pitfalls of the car-biased development Auckland has followed. Many people are oblivious to this point of view. The average Aucklander still drives a car (badly) and expects full priority. while this is changing slowly, we can’t disregard the majority of people who use the roads.

    Turning a major intersection into shared space is insane. you will have iPhone distracted pedestrians dead all over the place. the primary NZ road strategy is to lower road accidents rather than make things more convenient for everyone. doing something like this would be professionally irresponsible for any engineer.

    Having said that, once CRL is in and Quay St is downgraded, this would possibly be quite feasible if not the whole way down to.britomart. we should throw parts of queen st in there as well.

    • starnius

      “When I hear unqualified, exaggerated opinions like “pedestrians are treated like scum””

      Ari, when in many places in this city I see how low on the totem pole I am as a walker, while millions and billions get spent on roading, I cannot but feel the opinion that, yes, pedestrians are an after-thought at best. My own professional experience, where enormous amounts of time and effort is spent on optimising signals for cars, and pedestrians get marginalised with crossings cut out on particular arms, and pedestrian demands & numbers & desire lines not even being researched as part of the signals design, that shows me that the issue is alive and well in my profession (though it HAS gotten a lot better).

      Whether you like it or not, anger at being second class, at being disrespected in our environment, is THE thing that drives change. Saying “pretty please” isn’t cutting it.

    • Bryce P

      But they are treated like scum. I had a discussion with a couple of AT engineers late last year and, when I mentioned getting some better pedestrian facilities locally, their eyes glazed over. The car is king in their eyes and pedestrians should be kept where they belong – off the road.

  • Mr Anderson

    Funnily enough at the intersection discussed in the above post there are massive pedestrian volumes yet they are still treated like scum. Explain that Ari.

Leave a Reply