Earlier this year, CAA attended a workshop of Auckland Council on the impacts of the shared space areas in the City Centre. These streets remove the traditional kerb boundary between “road” and “footpath” and encourage everyone to mingle in one common, shared space – including car drivers and cyclists. The design and the road rules encourage slow traffic, and vehicles have to give way. Putting people first in the road is a very new concept for our car-focused city, but is really a very ancient one too – many historical cities have no defined boundary between the carriageway and the footpath in their (usually quite old) inner cities, and work well for people, without needing to exclude cars altogether.
The Council workshop we attended focused particularly on Fort Street, as only part (the westernmost block) of the street was changed to shared space ahead of the RWC – and the design for the centre and eastern thirds would be subject to a design review to decide whether shared space would be used there as well.
The good news is that the eastern third will now also become shared space (yay!), based on monitoring results and public feedback that generally supported the concept. Most businesses were also happy that the upgrade was working for the area, and supported further shared space area for the eastern block.
Meanwhile, the centre block will remain a more traditional design, with a “u-loop” street environment from Customs Street East, accessing via Commerce and Gore Streets – though even the middle block will see significant improvements, such as much wider footpaths.
Some interesting results that the monitoring and review research found was:
- Significantly lowered vehicle speeds in the shared space zones (the exact level of speed reduction was mentioned, but we have to apologise, as we didn’t note it down…)
- While people still drive TO the shared spaces roughly as much as they used to, motorists just driving THROUGH were reduced by about 25%
- Existing on-street parking was mostly used not by “locals” but instead by people parking there and then going to other parts of the city centre
One item that sadly was not covered all that deeply in the monitoring was cycling – so what are your opinions? Is shared space in the city centre working for people on bikes?