As Easy As Riding A Bike)
When designing road and street space, it should be quite obvious that the safety and comfort of the people using that space should be a prime concern. Indeed, the design itself should be informed by the preferences of the users. Yet far too often those wishes and preferences are simply ignored or discounted, because they conflict with some other design goal.
Perhaps the classic example of this is ‘shared space’, or at least specific elements of it. (I use the term in inverted commas because the use of it is now so widespread it has essentially lost meaning). In a number of high profile schemes, the comfort and convenience of users – particularly people walking and cycling – ranks second behind an apparently more important design aesthetic that involves reducing conventional highway engineering to the absolute minimum.
Frideswide Square in Oxford is one such ‘shared space’ scheme where user preferences have been ignored. Campaigners argued – long before the scheme was built – that providing no cycle-specific space would be a recipe for conflict. Double conflict, in fact. Conflict on the road, where people cycling have to mix on a narrow carriageway with heavy traffic –
And conflict on the footway, where people walking and cycling will also have to share space, rather than each mode having its own clearly distinct provision.
In addition, pedestrians have to make do with ‘informal’ crossings, rather than crossings which would give them certainty, or priority. Bizarrely Oxfordshire County Council seem to think this would be ‘unbalanced’.