5. Segregation and Protection of Pedestrians: no involuntary shared space

Table of contents

This section mirrors, and is complementary to, the previous section (4), and is from the perspective of the vulnerable pedestrian.

5.1. Segregation of Pedestrians from General Traffic

There must be no involuntary shared space between pedestrians and traffic (including bicycles, eMobility devices (including electronic/motorized bicycles or scooters), cars, buses etc.), since such shared space is intrinsically dangerous to vulnerable pedestrians (including disabled people) (cf. TrinityHaus Report, 2012). In other words, pedestrians must have the option of being segregated from all other forms of transport at all times, with appropriate care being taken by planners at crossing-points.

Note: shared space can be given other titles by planners, e.g., ‘shared Surfaces’, ‘shared facilities’, ‘pedestrian priority zones’ etc., but no sophistry can disguise a shared space. Vulnerable Pedestrians need to be safe from all vehicles (including bicycles etc.), at all times. There are no, nor can there ever be, exceptions to this basic principle, apart from devices for the mobility impaired, and apart, of course, from safe (controlled) crossing areas.

Example of Bad Practice

George’s Street, Dún Laoghaire

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/PgK1cS16ZPhj9JgQA

Junction of O’Connell St (Spire) with North Earl St, Dublin 1.

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/kQGMyUn4W6TJeEyG9

Junction of O’Connell Street (Spire) with Henry Street, Dublin 1.

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/7EumgLPoTagHMkP29

The O’Connell Street example is of interest because the design (2002) attempts to combine traditional designations of footway and carriageway, with the concept of shared space, e.g., large areas where there is little or no kerbed demarcation between the footway and the carriageway. As such, it falls between two stools, providing hazard and uncertainty for all, especially for vulnerable pedestrians.

5.2. Use of Segregating Kerbs Wherever Possible

As stated in Section 4, so-called ‘pedestrianized’ zones are necessarily Disability Exclusion Zones, and, as such, where they currently exist, need to be phased out. To further illustrate this need, there follows examples of how ostensible pedestrianisation is currently, mostly, a variation on the theme of (involuntary) shared space. Shared space (i.e., with inadequate kerbed segregation of pedestrians), is necessarily unsafe for vulnerable pedestrians.

Emergency Vehicles: Clearly, emergency vehicles need to access all areas, so in that sense, no area so designated, is truly a pedestrianized zone.

Delivery Vehicles and Restricted Hours: use of such spaces by delivery vehicles, even at restricted hours, affords no protection to the visually impaired pedestrian, and effectively means that they cannot be guaranteed their safety except for designated hours in that space (unlike their non-disabled comparitors). Effectively, this means that, unlike their less disabled comparitors, pedestrians with impairments must know the times of delivery access to a street in advance, and are restricted from using that street apart from hours where deliveries are not permitted. Those who are most disabled, of course, cannot use such ‘pedestrianized’ streets at all.

Example of Bad Practice

In Dublin, Grafton and Henry St are pedestrianised from 11:00 to 06:00 (19 hours).

Access for commercial deliveries is permitted outside these hours.

General Traffic Allowed, but at restricted times:in a similar time-restriction regime to that of delivery vehicles in the previous paragraph, some schemes have pedestrianization of a street or area during shopping hours, but allow all vehicles to access the area in off-peak times. This is the worst of all worlds to a person with a severe visual impairment, since they have to contend with “normal” traffic, albeit at an off-peak time, with no safe zone to navigate by.

Example of bad practice

In Tralee, the Mall is pedestrianised from 10:30 to 18:00 (7 hours 30 minutes).

Vehicle access is permitted outside these hours

Kerry County Council decided to fully reopen The Mall to traffic for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency to facilitate collection and dispersion of food deliveries: which would have been safe for vulnerable pedestrians if the kerbs were maintained; but makes the area dangerous and ultimately inaccessible to vulnerable pedestrians without kerbs.

Link to article: https://tinyurl.com/v3tg2xd

Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork City: In Cork City, Oliver Plunkett St is pedestrianised from 10:30 to 17:30 (7 hours). Vehicle access is permitted outside these hours

Oliver Plunkett St, Cork.

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/AJh5UhcB6jGAJHVDA

Cork City Council decided to fully reopen Oliver Plunkett St to traffic for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency to facilitate access to the English Market.

A tactile guidance strip on one side of the street and a metal drainage channel on the other does not offer sufficient protection to vulnerable pedestrians in the way kerbs would.

Necessary Solution

Consequently, the word ‘pedestrianized’ can be misleading. Town centres and other areas can have their traffic reduced in a more equitable way by officially designating them Vehicle Restriction Areas (VRAs), and by installing adequate kerbing to segregate pedestrians wherever possible (see 4.5).

At the very least, and bare minimum of meeting the needs of vulnerable pedestrians, areas officially designated as pedestrianized, but which allow vehicular access at certain times, need to retain or have restored their kerbed delineation between footway and carriageway. This reinstating of kerbs has also definite advantages for orientation and wayfinding for pedestrians with severe visual impairments. Where streets are possibly too narrow to accommodate this, consultation with DPOs is key.

5.3. Most Dangerous Areas for Shared Space

Although all involuntary shared space etc. is absolutely dangerous for vulnerable pedestrians, and needs to be prohibited because it is an unconscionable negligence of duty and responsibility to the safety of vulnerable pedestrians, some areas are particularly egregious…namely, areas of access to public buildings.

Example of Worst Practice: Castleknock Post Office at Lidl Shopping Centre (Co. Fingal) – constructed in 2019. This new Lidl Development, which houses the post office, includes shared space where the road was built level with the footpath. This causes orientation difficulties as there are no kerbs or dished tactile paving to indicate crossing points.

Post Office, Lidl Complex, Castleknock, Dublin 15.

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/G8UqZMmox2tADmRe7

5.4. No Shared Space Between Pedestrians and Light Rail

Tramlines and pedestrian areas (including footways), need to be clearly physically separated at all times, apart from dished crossing points where no other forms of traffic have to be contended with (see Section 9,).

Examples of worst Practice

Seán Heuston Bridge, Dublin 8, where pedestrians are only separated from the Luas Red Line by a 20mm drainage channel. Constructed, 2000-2003. This dangerous design is exacerbated by the fact that seated individuals often block the pedestrian footway in order to beg.
Sean Heuston Bridge – footpath level with Luas line.

North of the Spire, Upper O’Connell Street, Dublin 1, where the north-bound Luas Green Line has been elevated to be level with the island footway. The blister tactile paving is inadequate because it is hard to detect, and is only 3m long. This example is particularly dangerous/inaccessible because of the relatively loud ambience noise in the immediate vicinity. Constructed, 2015-2017.

Upper O’Connell St island footpath level with Luas line

Google Maps Link: https://goo.gl/maps/u3HhoCXmWyebUf377

Luas Green Line siding off the main line from Dawson street to Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, where blind pedestrians are prevented from finding a safe crossing because there is no curve (Constructed 2015-2017)..

Shared space at the uncontrolled crossing over the Luas siding at St. Stephens Green leading to a pedestrian crossing towards Dawson Street. Trams are most active in this area between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., but can be active anytime.

Link to pdf file with 2 images: https://tinyurl.com/uabysqk

James’s Street Luas Stop: Luas James’s Street (Shared space between track/footway/cycle track):

For other examples where such shared space is also an uncontrolled crossing involving access to public transport, see 11.3 below.