Kent

Ashford pedestrians avoid crossing in 'shared space'

An area of the shared space
Image caption Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers have equal priority on the streets of Ashford

Pedestrians have been avoiding crossing the 'shared space' area of Ashford, according to a study by the University of West England.

The scheme, which turned Ashford's ring road into streets where drivers and pedestrians have equal priority, has been in place since November 2008.

Signs and traffic lights were removed from the area and the scheme had been hailed as a success.

However the study showed most people wanted a return to formal crossings.

It found that people avoided the centre of Elwick square, keeping to the edges rather than trying to cross the road.

Dr Steve Melia, from the university, said: "The whole idea of shared space is supposed to be good for pedestrians, benefiting them, encouraging people to walk.

"When they do cross they try to use the courtesy crossings which are marked into the ground.

"But people don't like those very much and they don't feel that drivers give the same amount of priority as they would on a traditional zebra crossing."

'Concrete collar'

Ben Hamilton-Baille, the architect behind the scheme, said the point of the shared space was so that pedestrians and drivers interacted and negotiated for space and right of way.

He said that although that may not be easy or comfortable for the pedestrian it did appear to work.

"So far it looks as if there has been a significant drop, particularly in more serious accidents, maybe as much as 75%," he said.

"That doesn't necessarily translate into how people feel when they cross the street, but the reduction in speed has been the most important single element in transforming what was an unattractive concrete collar surrounding Ashford into a civilised part of the town centre itself."

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