Shared Spaces Seminar 2017

The Shared Space Seminar took place in Edinburgh on 25 April 2017. It was attended by a range of delegates representing disabled person’s organisations, local authorities, planners, and street designers. The purpose of the seminar was to discuss shared spaces from a range of perspectives, including disabled people and public authorities responsible for designing and maintaining streets. The aim was to agree on how future shared space schemes could be designed to ensure access for all.

Following a series of presentations, workshop discussions took place. Delegates talked about their experiences of shared spaces, the features that determine a shared space, the objectives of shared spaces and discussed consultation and the best ways to achieve this successfully.
This report documents the key findings from seven workshop discussions on the day. It is not intended to be a report on Shared Spaces in general, but a record of discussion and opinion on the day. It has been produced by the Scottish Disability Equality Forum on behalf of Edinburgh Napier University and Transport Scotland.

The key findings from the seminar include:

  • It was recognised that the majority Scotland’s streets, shared space or not, are not friendly places for disabled people at present. It was therefore agreed that there needs to be a general shift in culture, where pedestrians are given more prominence, which then alters driver behaviour and reduces vehicle and cycle dominance.
  • The phrase “shared space” was not felt to be helpful. Rather, we should talk about the overall idea of designs that make streets ‘better people places’ for all users, rather than just movement spaces where motor vehicle traffic dominates, as in the majority of Scotland’s streets today.
    The terminology of shared spaces should change. Delegates agreed that when improving street design, the use of the street should be explored so the focus can shift to how it can be improved.
  • There was strong agreement that a ‘shared space’ should not be created as an easy compromise in street design, to avoid upsetting  motorists – or any other street user. It should only be used if there was a clear rationale for it. Other options (such as pedestrianisation, or wider footways) can be more appropriate. This shows the context specific nature of street design.
  • It is necessary to incorporate traditional features such as controlled crossings and kerbs if visually impaired people are to feel confident about negotiating the street safely. A kerb or other delineation between ’pedestrian areas’ and ‘vehicle and cycle areas’ is necessary in a way that can be recognised by people of all ages and by disabled and non-disabled people alike.
    The idea of shared spaces was more suited to a residential area, but becomes less appropriate when introduced to busier street environments. However, there was a general understanding that no ‘one size fits all’ and that the design and implementation of shared spaces must consider the context of that specific street, taking account of the volume of motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic, what kinds of buildings front the street, and how the street is currently used by people walking.
  • Consultation is fundamental to the successful production of a shared space scheme. From the earliest point, right through the process, to quality checking at the end, specific community groups, disabled people’s organisations, and disability groups, including Blue Badge holders, should be involved in meaningful, two-way discussions and ‘what-if’ explorations, rather than presentations. When consultation is effective it will help designers and the public bodies they work for achieve designs that do not unlawfully disadvantage disabled people, to ensure compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty of the Equality Act 2010.

To view the full report on the Share Spaces Seminar 2017, please visit the following link: