As Easy As Riding A Bike)
There was a bit of back-and-forth on social media last week on the subject of Exhibition Road, involving – in particular – the Conservative councillor Daniel Moylan, who had a major role in pushing the ‘shared space’ scheme through.
One of his tweets was – for me at least – particularly intriguing.
I think I would rather hide in a cave than adopt “Sustainable Safety” principles.
— Daniel Moylan (@danielmgmoylan)
Fairly clear! But why might a fan of ‘shared space’ be so hostile to Sustainable Safety – the policy which lies behind the Netherlands world-leading road safety record? After all, the Netherlands is the country where Moylan’s version of ‘shared space’ largely originates – with the ideas of Hans Monderman.
If we look at the principles of Sustainable Safety, the answer quickly becomes clear. The ideology behind Exhibition Road (and Moylan’s attitude towards how it should function) stands almost directly in opposition to those principles.
Let’s take the first principle – Monofunctionality, or Single Function Roads.
This is a bit of jargon, but it essentially means that every road and street should be classified according to its function. The Netherlands has three categories –
- Access road
- Distributor road
- Through road
There should be no ambiguity – a road should either have an access function, a distributor function, or a through-road function. Since the early 1990s, when Sustainable Safety originated, The Netherlands has been busily classifying their road network, and adapting their roads to ensure that they function according to their classification. In particular, access roads must not have through traffic using them. They are places where people live, work, shop – where they engage in everyday human activity. Flows of through traffic should, quite rightly, be separated from these activities.
Exhibition Road, of course, doesn’t fit neatly into this typology. It very obviously has through traffic on it, exemplified by the long queues of motor traffic at either end. But at the same time it has the pretence of being a place – a ‘cultural heartland’, a destination for tourists and visitors to London. So it’s a curious hybrid of public space, where people gather, and a busy through-route for motor traffic, with something like 13,000 motor vehicles per day at the northern end, and around 8,000 per day at the southern end.