London Cycling Campaign in Hackney says "Let's share Shoreditch"

Dutch-style 'design for negotiation' comes to streets north of the City, writes Trevor Parsons from the London Cycling Campaign in Hackney:

Foot will come before wheel, and muscle before motor when, later this year, Leonard Circus (see photo), at the intersection of two streets in Shoreditch, becomes East London's first sizeable example of 'shared space', an idea pioneered by the great Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman in the Frisian town of Drachten.

The area between the buildings will be paved (see illustration) at a single level in unglazed brickwork, broken up by an irregular pattern of lines inlaid in a contrasting material.

Kerbs, signs and carriageway markings will be notable by their absence, and trees will be planted in an apparently haphazard arrangement (carefully chosen to avoid the intense virtual traffic carried by telecommunications cables below) and surrounded by circular seating.

The plan seeks to correct the problems created by the rather hastily conceived setting of a 1990s public art installation, properly called Hitchcock's Reel and unofficially dubbed the 'disco biscuit', whose plinth juts out unsympathetically into the space, obstructing pedestrian movement and hampering efforts to restore two-way cycling to east-west Leonard Street and north-south Paul Street (part of London Cycle Network route 10).

This location is a safe bet as a location in which to experiment with shared space because motor traffic was slashed here by the congestion charging zone in 2002, while footfall and cycle traffic have been steadily increasing.

Two-way cycling was recently restored in Paul Street, and this scheme will reintroduce it throughout the length of Leonard Street.

We look forward to temporary events in the space, and a coffee kiosk for thirsty riders.

We thank Daniel Nelson for the visualisation. This article first appeared in Hackney insert of the Feb-Mar 2013 issue of London Cyclist magazine, delivered free to members every two months.


What are current motor traffic levels through here?

Looks a bit expensive for what could be better achieved here by adding modal filters, removing the biscuit, adding some cycle parking and perhaps removing some car parking? I thought we'd already experimented with shared space and found the results somewhat disappointing (see exhibition road) unless other measures (such as modal filters) are introduced?

The article does say it's a low motor traffic junction, with high footfall and cycling - we're not entirely convinced by shared-space ourselves but, as Trevor says, this does seem like a suitable place to be experimenting with it.


It's rather desperate to describe this as "Dutch-style 'design for negotiation'" – just because Hans Monderman was Dutch, it doesn't mean shared space is common in the Netherlands. Quite the opposite, in fact. David Hembrow covered shared space back in 2008 and found it lacking. I've been to Haren (one of Monderman's shared space projects) and it's really not a pleasant place to ride a bike or cross the 'road'. In fact, it's the only place in the Netherlands where I felt the need to swear at a car driver! [Edit: It's also the only place in the entire country where I had to pass a stopped bus on the outside!]

I know LCC Hackney are generally anti-separation and will generally look to champion anything except protected cycle paths, but shared space really isn't the answer here. Without road closures for motor traffic, this will fail. This area is used as a rat-run by taxis (see the Google Streetview photo above for example) for a start. The foot and bike traffic just isn't high enough in comparison to the motor traffic for shared space to work here if it remains a through-route. It's a nothing area for a start – there are no cafés or shops there.

The mock-up looks rather bleak to me too. I wouldn't fancy crossing that brick desert worrying that a car was on its way. Would you fancy "negotiating" with a taxi while crossing here on foot? Do you think they'd slow down for you, or would they honk the horn to bully you out of the way?

Will it even be true shared space, Monderman-style? A shared space advocate could easily argue that Exhibition Road fails because there is quite clearly a channel through which motor traffic is intended to flow, and there's a separate are which pedestrians are expected to use. The kerbs may be level but they're visible, straight and clear, and there's tactile paving where the "footpath" meets the "carriageway". To a layman driving a car, it's just a normal road with fancy design. 


This post was edited by schrodingers_cat at 3:54pm 18 February 2013.

Totally agree with schrodingers_cat, especially

1. the dishonest use of the expression "Dutch style"

2. the need to ensure that there is no rat-running (such as Leonard-Paul-Worship St at present)

3. the need to plant trees, art pieces and a kiosk to vitalise the  brick desert, and slow down delivery vans

I am not against shared-space but it needs to be done properly; the most important thing is that foot/cycle priority needs to be communicated clearly; bricks are not sufficient. The whole South Shoreditch pentagon needs an homogeneous treatment with absolutely no through motor-traffic.

  • By paul at 8:15pm 18 February 2013

Here is an interesting YouTube video of Poynton where a shared space scheme does seem to be working.

two points about that poynton video - 

one - it's made by an advocate of shared space (and so may not reflect every viewpoint)

two - it's not really shared space - pedestrian and traffic areas are subtly delineated. there are areas that are clearly designed as crossing points, and others that aren't. essentially, it's an exercise in removing traffic signals, and replacing with a roundabout and zebras.

in general, the best evidence available indicates that undelineated shared space is only really comfortable for all users at a motor vehicle usage of under 100 vehicles an hour.  i suspect there's significantly more traffic than that at leonard circus.

If you read Hackney's transport strategy it owes more to the Danish urbanist Gehl, than Monderman. An incremental approach, to create a better balance between pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles.



Cllr Vincent Stops

This is an ill-conceived disaster. I've seen several very near misses here while walking my children to their nearby school, it's an accident waiting to happen. Well intentioned but extremely dangerous, the redesign just doesn't work in this location.


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