Regular readers will know of my professional and personal interest in transport, but shared space also proves that trusting people works far better than over-reliance on state wisdom. Hence why I described a test scheme in Portishead as "libertarian magic" in 2010.
Firstly, it's quite clear that, whenever tested, projects such as Portishead's are not just mildly successful, they are almost faultlessly so.
Secondly, prior to their implementation, most don't believe it possible.
The former is proof that humans are very capable of interacting with each other with courtesy, the problems occur when a hierarchy - and with it, a superiority - is prescribed by a third party. The latter shows how deeply ingrained the figment of the state (and its delegated local administrators) as sole arbiters of our safety has now become.
Libertarians believe that people are innately social, that they can interact harmoniously with minimal authority. Statists believe that no-one can be trusted to wipe their own nose without someone being paid to instruct them. Libertarians like people, statists fundamentally distrust them.
'Shared space' schemes not only suggest that libertarians have a valid point, they also show that by taking the same line in other areas, society and behaviour may well be improved for the better. Which is a 'good thing', surely.During the evening, I met Martin Cassini* who later presented this film showing the recent transformation of Poynton's town centre. It's more smile-inducing libertarian magic, so please prepare your favourite beverage and take 15 minutes to watch it..
Now, I know Mudgie isn't keen on this - as he was quick to point out on Twitter at the time - but there were many Poynton residents in attendance who had made the long journey down from Cheshire after having been won over by the beneficial effects on their town. They were full of nothing but praise and enthusiasm.
The local councillor also gave an insight into his battles to get the proposal through in the first place, including "three days of abuse" after inviting the public to visit the town hall and ask their questions. Such a shame since his motivation was hearing first hand refusal of outsiders to visit and shop in the town solely because of traffic problems. This does go to show, though, that the idea of the state allowing more autonomy is now so counter-intuitive to the public that it is very difficult to sell, no matter how successful the end result.
I know that there is a village near me which could benefit greatly through shared space, and I expect anyone reading this with an open mind could think of somewhere nearby for which it could also be beneficial. It has cut accidents in Dutch towns, as well as in the UK such as Ashford in Kent, and famously in Central London's Exhibition Road. In all examples, traffic jams were also reduced.
What's not to like?
I was reminded to search for this film on YouTube after reading Jackart's excellent article yesterday on road usage and the abuse of statistics.
The driver has assumed he owned the road for too long. The roads must be taken from the driver and given back to people, whatever means of transport - shoe, bike, motorbike, horse or car, they choose for their journey.
Quite. And shared space does that very well. Hopefully we will see a lot more of it in the future.