Residents in the English village of Poynton are reaping the benefits of an ambitious project that turned a busy and clogged central intersection into an open space shared by cars, cyclists and pedestrians alike. The area was remade into two “roundels” with pavements of different colors and textures doing the work that traffic lights, signs, lane lines, and curbs used to do. One year after the project’s completion, 88 percent of area businesses report increased foot traffic, and even those who were skeptical of the change have come around, saying that the village center has improved dramatically.
What’s the Big Idea?
Historically, the segregation of car traffic from other types of traffic is a relatively new concept, and it has created a corresponding behavioral separation between drivers and non-drivers. Returning to an urban design that removes these barriers has resulted in a calmer and more civil space where traffic flows slowly yet continuously and all participants are treated with respect. Other European towns have implemented this design, but Poynton is the first to do so at such a busy intersection. As one observer put it in a video about the project: “Pedestrians in the shared space scenario…are seen as fellow road users rather than obstacles in the way of the next light.”