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Ben Hamilton-Baillie/Auckland Shared Streets

This is an interesting video of Ben Hamilton-Baillie at the recent Congress for the New Urbanism conference (CNU22). Hamilton-Baillie one of the leaders of the progressive street design movement explains how the street delivers the purpose the city- economic exchange, social exchange, and cultural expression, or “money, sex and art” as he quotably sums it up. He describes the progression of the urban street from a condition where things moved very slowly, people moved carefully along and across the street-  to today, where everything is over engineered, and highly regimented and segregated. This dramatic change occurred with the  introduction of the automobile and enabled by modernist design philosophies (Le Corbusier, CIAM) and technical proponents (Colin Buchanan).  This led to the orchestrated surrender of our streets to the automobile (as described here).

At 26:00 Hamilton Baille describes the biggest problem with street design being the confusion between the utility of roads/highway and public realm. Highways are highly regulated, singular focused, and predictable, while the public realm (ie streets) serve a multitude of uses, are constantly changing, and require eye contact and other human cognitive skills. Combining the two results in a Frankenstein environment where people are caged off (or worse relegated to overpasses), signs regulate the most basic movements, and traffic movement is stifled. This environment works badly for both traffic and  the public realm. This is very similar to the Strongtowns concept of STROADS, which describes the horrible outcome when the function of roads and streets is blurred.

It is amazing the receptiveness that he gets in this forum. With regard to shared streets this is one of the many areas where Auckland is  a global leader amongst new world cities. Today it’s hard to imagine how these were ever built. Was there a traffic signal technology conference in Canberra during the week they were approved?

A few months back Google Streetview introduced a feature many people called the “Wayback Machine” which allows users to toggle back in time through their collection of images. I’ve grabbed a couple before and afters below.

Fort Street Before and After

Fort Street, Auckland – Before and After (Google Streetview)

Fort Lane Before and After

Fort Lane Before and After

For people interested in shared streets or think that the Auckland CBD is still riddled with of $2 and tacky tourists shops, take a tour of these streets:

Elliott Street 

Darby St (for some reason you can only see the after of Darby here)

Lorne St

Fort St

Fort Lane.

25 comments to Ben Hamilton-Baillie/Auckland Shared Streets

  • Rob Mayo

    This is fantastic. When we can get Mr Hamilton-Baillie down to Auckland to speak? With his accent, people will listen and actually do something to properly placemake our streets.

  • BBC

    Darby was never photographed until recently hence why only the ‘after’ exists.

  • bob

    After seeing the example of Poynton in the UK in the clip, i think Quay st could successfully be narrowed to a lane each way, removing the traffic lights at the bottom of albert st and by the ferry building and putting roundabout type intersections. It might improve the traffic flow and make it better for pedestrians.

  • Peter

    Does anyone know the road rules of a shared space? Almost every time I go to the new lynn one someone tries to mow me over crossing it.

    • Steve D

      The rules are very simple and clear – vehicles have to give way to pedestrians.

      I’ll wait until you’ve finished laughing.

      • Steve D

        Darby Street and the western end of Fort Street do seem to work properly according to this rule. In the others, cars still rule. The shared spaces have been great improvements, but I think that’s more due to the parking being replaced with outdoor seating, etc., rather than any theoretical ability for pedestrians to hang around in the traffic lane.

        • The problem with the shared spaces is there is still too much connectivity so the streets are still thorough fares for cars. Fort Street needs to be be blocked at Customs Street East and Queen Street while Jean Batten Place is blocked into Shortland Street.

          That will mean the only way in and out will be Commerce and Gore (which should be made shared spaces as well). The only cars needing to get in that area should be delivery vehicles and people parking in that area. Right now it is a particular favourite as a shortcut for taxis and courier drivers. I don’t understand why the Council didn’t do this ages ago.

          I can see over time that people are occupying the street space less and less so it is becoming just another road, with pedestrians pushed to the periphery.

          • Steve D

            Particularly Jean Batten Place, which is pretty barren, and has no purpose for cars whatsoever. It’s just a rat run – there’s no on-street parking now the cops have moved out, and no vehicle crossings. Should be fully pedestrianised, with bollards.

            I think a complex one-way system that doesn’t allow driving the whole length of Fort Street is probably the best bet. This way cars won’t need room to pass each other going in opposite directions. Just have the one-way direction reverse between Commerce and Gore Streets. I’ll see if I can draw something up.

          • Cars out of Queen solves the whole thing. With nowhere to go there’s no demand. The whole valley is just a rat run.

            Shortland St from O’Connel downl [looking good, nearly finished!] and all of High need the same treatment, basically Shortland St should only connect up for general traffic. Delivery and emergency excepted.

          • Sure those are all good ideas Patrick. But in the spirit of Janette Sadikh-Khan just go for the easy, quick, temporary. As my above suggestion, give me 9 bollards and the problem is solved.

            If the carmageddon comes (as of course it was going to when the shared space was put in) then remove the bollards. Easy peasy. Just needs some cajones in the right places at AT/AC to stand up and be counted.

          • Bollards are probably my least favourite tool for traffic calming. No hang on; pedestrian cages are my least favourite tool, then bollards. We can do better than that here.

          • Steve D

            Bollards aren’t a tool for traffic calming – they’re a tool for traffic eliminating. They’re really needed in a city like Auckland, where drivers don’t respect obvious cues like “kerbs” as places they aren’t allowed to drive. Auckland has too few bollards, not too many. It’s particularly obvious in Wynyard (where I now have the mixed blessing of working), where people will park cars literally anywhere they can physically get into, even if it’s blatantly not a space where cars are allowed.

            Bollards are pretty much the opposite of the pedestrian cage, which keeps pedestrians out of the way of cars. Bollards keep cars out of a pedestrian space, while letting people walk through unhindered.

            (Go bollards!)

          • Bryce P

            Bollards no. Concrete blocks that double as seats.

          • I am surprised you say that Patrick. I see bollards as the easiest and most space efficient way to make an area cycle/pedestrian friendly. As you can see in this article, the Dutch make great use of them to make sure drivers stay out of cycling areas:
            http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2013/08/the-fifty-bollard-game-how-bollards-on.html

            A great quote:
            “Bollards appear primarily where cycling routes meet driving routes. They’re also used to prevent minor roads from being used for through journeys (segregating modes without a cycle-path and helping to unravel driving routes from cycling routes) and in other places, for example to discourage parking of cars where they are not wanted.”

            David Hembrow then gives some examples of poor bollard use (like where they are not very visible) but they are easy to avoid. Notice pretty much all the bad examples are in Britain and closely followed in NZ.

            I agree with Steve that one of the great uses of bollards is to stop parking on footpaths. In Bucharest, where any open area (and I mean any!) is a parking space they are essential and the only thing that will stop the mad bastards from parking everywhere. I was seldom able to walk on the footpath there because of parked cars.

            I can see the same thing happening in Auckland as people who have been able to park for free everywhere are suddenly unable to do that. We need bollards as soon as possible and they are cheap as chips.

            What is your objection to them?

      • Peter

        I just noticed it says “Please note, in the city centre shared spaces:” – “drivers must observe low speeds and give way to pedestrians”

        So does this mean it does not apply to new lynn’s shared space since it is not in the Auckland “city centre” or what…?

        Plus frankly there should be something written in the road code booklet/website about these as many drivers seem completely ignorant to what a shared space is.

        • You think writing something in the road code will reduce driver ignorance?

          • Steve D

            It will work. In about two generations, by the time everyone on the roads has used that updated road code when getting their licence.

            Actually, I’m being a bit unfair. Part of the philosophy of shared spaces is that everyone’s supposed to be a bit confused about the rules, so they look around and take care. So drivers being ignorant of the rules is actually by design. The downside of that is that pedestrians don’t have the same feeling of security as they do on the footpath, since they don’t know the rules either (or if they do, don’t trust that drivers know).

          • Sailor Boy

            Kept left unless passing has been in the road code since it was written and people still don’t do it.

  • Ted E

    Do narrower lane markings reduce vehicle speed?

  • Don’t know if others think this as well but I reckon too many pedestrians don’t assert their rights in these shared spaces and thus contribute to drivers just treating the space like any other road. While I don’t put myself in danger or erratically run in front of cars, I do make a point of walking down the middle of the shared space and taking long diagonal routes to get from one side to another as a way of indicating to the drivers (and hopefully other pedestrians too) that these are not roads and thus we shouldn’t show deference to vehicles.

    • Sailor Boy

      I do thesame, also stare down drivers attempting to barge out of the carparks accessed off of Elliot Street, very forceful when riding or driving down too trying to use my vehicle to slow others and give pedestrians plenty of notice to just cross.

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