No rules?

Quite by chance, I encountered an advocate of “shared space” and had a conversation with him at the start of a ride I undertook to illustrate the concept. The advocate expressed that there are “no rules” in this kind of space, which is dominated by pedestrians. Do you agree?

7 Responses to No rules?

  1. Nice video! I think the Mike is right on about Commercial Street. It is primarily a shopping street, not a street for through travel for cars or bikes. There are many parallel streets which are much better for through travel. If anything, I think Commercial Street should be redone with no curbs and pavers from building edge to building edge to make it even more clear that pedestrians have priority and to make it more accessible for people in wheelchairs. Better signage could also help notify drivers that car access should be for local traffic only, since some out-of-towners do tend to find themselves driving down the street without realizing ahead of time that it’s primarily a pedestrian space.

    • Charlie, there are through streets which are better for motor vehicle travel. There is no through route which most bicyclists would consider more attractive. Bradford Street, the next one up from the harbor, is hilly and narrow; Route 6, the only other alternative, is a four-lane speedway with no shoulders (and a huge boondoggle — it has only two lanes in the next town).
      I agree that there could be improvements to Commercial Street. Also there is an abandoned rail line which, if improved as a path, could offer an alternative for part of the way. I address these and other issues in my next post, which also includes the uncut video of my ride through Provincetown.

  2. Roberta Franchuk

    I live in Freiburg, Germany. A large part of the Innenstadt (old town) is, like many other German cities, a similar shared space. Actually, it is a pedestrian zone with some allowances for other vehicles. As you note, this does not mean ‘no rules’ – in fact there are plenty. Vehicles are allowed only in certain areas at certain times; bikes must be walked on some streets, can be cycled at foot speed on others or cycled regular speed elsewhere. In some places you cannot park your bike. The main 2 streets are shared with trams, which do have the right of way but proceed very slowly through the thickets of pedestrians. Calling this a pedestrian zone is clearer and more accurate than trying to pretend the space is shared equally.

  3. Pingback: “Shared space” — longer video and discussion | John S. Allen's Bicycle Blog

  4. invisiblehand

    Interesting. It sounds like Monderman in … Drachten?

    Clearly there are some rules, but saying that there are “no rules” is just a slogan and probably an efficient way of describing to new folks that they need to be careful driving or biking through the area.

  5. Hi- great blog.
    The traffic density you experienced occurs for a scant 2 months, in the very center of town, and primarily in the middle of the day and mid evening. Through most the street and of the year, pedestrians use the sidewalk, cars can park on-street and bikes continue bi-directional travel. All in relative harmony.
    In my experience, Provincetown has the country’s most organic bicycle culture. The bike is used as everyday transport by a huge portion of the population all year.
    The rules of the road in Provincetown are quite sane and work well. They aren’t immediately clear, but they are quickly learned.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response. My point with the video is to illustrate a traffic situation, not to single out Provincetown. As a bicyclist, I would hope to be able to go faster safely and get where I am going sooner. That this is not possible in “shared space” or “social space”, and that is the point I want to illustrate — a point lost on many advocates and urban planners, who equate bicyclists with pedestrians and advocate spaces like this as being desirable for bicycling. Yes, I’m sure that it’s different in the off season — but such spaces in a major urban area don’t have an off season.

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