The shared space (or 'naked streets') approach to street design was developed in the Netherlands right? The late Hans Monderman was the pioneering hero who extended it to some surprisingly busy roads and intersections, correct? And it has been popularised and applied in the UK and elsewhere by Ben Hamilton-Baillie, hasn't it?
Or did shared space emerge in Japan?
In a recent Ecohearth post explaining the shared space idea, Dawn Marshallsay includes this sentence:
It could be said that Tokyo led the way, as most of its roads follow the shared-space principle, although they were not purposefully designed to reduce accidents.Actually, it is mainly small side-streets that are like that, not most roads, but you get the point. Here are some examples photographed during my short visits to Japan. (Scroll down for more discussion after the pictures)
|Near Fukuoka airport and a subway station.|
|Near Tokyo University and Ueno in central Tokyo.|
|In Nishitokyo City, Tokyo. With a mamachari ('mother bicycle') and kids right on cue to demonstrate the high level of subjective safety here.|
|Also in Nishitokyo, with another mamachari.|
|Near Shinjuku, Tokyo (southwest)|
|Also southwest of Shinjuku.|
I don't really want to take any credit away from Hans Monderman and the other pioneers of today's efforts on Shared Space. Their projects are much more ambitious than these Japanese examples. They extend "public realm" much further into what used to be "traffic space". The side streets of Tokyo and other Japanese cities are not such a challenge to mainstream traffic engineering practice precisely because they are side streets.
Still, it seems a little rough that Hamilton-Baillie fails to mention such Japanese shared space in a June 2010 paper for City Planning Review (pdf), published by the City Planning Institute of Japan.
I suspect Japan deserves a bit more recognition for its little shared-space streets.
What do you think? Are Japanese urban planners, designers and transport planners proud of their side streets? Are they really as successful and safe as they appear to be? Have they been carefully evaluated and researched in Japan?
If you want to see more, try this location then click into street view and explore a little in a shopping district near Ikebukuro station.