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Exhibition Road Says Sayonara to Sidewalks and Hello to Shared Space

While many liveable city plans encourage more sidewalks and bike lanes to protect pedestrians and cyclists from cars, a new project in London challenges this division with a vision of "shared space"for people and vehicles.

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GOOD and PSFK both point to a Guardian article discussing the new design of London's cultural artery, Exhibition Road. Here's an excerpt:

In the last 18 months, it has been ripped up and remade to a new design that all but abolishes the distinction between road and pavement. Instead, there's one continuous surface, cross-hatched dramatically in black-and-white granite. Pedestrians can wander where they like: they'll just have to negotiate the cars and bicycles. It's all very liberal, and something of an experiment.

The impetus for this rule-breaking design came in 2003 when the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea decided that Exhibition Road wasn't quite living up to its name. Once the main route to the Great Exhibition, held in Hyde Park in 1851, it remains perhaps London's grandest cultural artery. Leading to the Royal Albert Hall at its northern end and bordered by the Victoria and Albert Museum on one side and the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum on the other, its various institutions collectively get more visitors a year than Venice.

Yet it had become a glorified car park, frequently choked with lines of coaches. And with the grimy dual carriageway of the Cromwell Road cutting across it, it's no wonder that many pedestrians preferred to take the dank Victorian tunnel that runs under Exhibition Road from the tube station to the Science Museum.

Today, Exhibition Road is in the final stages of its extraordinary transformation. With a few exceptions here and there, it is now a continuous, seamless surface of what is known as "shared space" – shared, that is, by drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. And the emphasis is very much on pedestrians, who now have two thirds of the road's width to themselves.

On the surface, this idea seems to challenge convention, drawing on but a few similarly executed experiments in Holland and Scandinavia. I question whether we're actually just revisiting the turn of the 20th century street life, where pedestrians, street cars, horse-drawn carts and carriages all shared the road. Further, what else can we look to in the past as we design for the future of cities?

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I think this is interesting & will definitely be an experience. When I was living in London one of my Professors spoke about how the simple act of walking in London is so different than Venice. In London you are always watching for other people who walk SO FAST, & cars, & lights, & road markings... Yet in Venice there are no cars, & what you hear on the streets are not honks but people talking...
It will also be interesting to see exactly how people walk in this new shared space, as it is something we are not used to. At my university we closed one of our main streets to vehicle traffic a year ago. Today, after no cars being on that road for a year, students still favour walking on the sidewalk. However, I think it makes our campus feel a lot more like a 'campus' & it has had an overall positive effect.

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