News / Canada

Metro Cities: Places that are ditching street signs and relying on civility instead

It's a concept called "shared space," and it's been around for years. As Canadian cities start to embrace the practice, here's how it's panned out around the world.

Exhibition Road in London’s South Kensington area, where the speed limit is 32 km/h.

Marcio Cabral de Moura / Flickr

Exhibition Road in London’s South Kensington area, where the speed limit is 32 km/h.

Sunday marked 10 years since the death of Hans Monderman, a Dutch traffic engineer and co-coiner of the concept of shared space. In his honour, a look at the thinking behind the theory and how it’s playing out across the world.

What’s it all about?

The main ideas behind the concept are reducing traffic signs, lights, curbs, sidewalks and any other pavement or paint that makes firm distinctions between road users. Reduced speed limits are crucial elements on more pedestrian-heavy areas.

What’s it good for?

Champions say the concept makes roads more flexible and civilized.The concept:

• Has been shown to reduce traffic accidents

• Eases congestion and traffic flow

• More space for patios and street festivals

What’s the downside?

Skeptics say it puts too much faith in road users and can turn dangerous. The concept:

• Leaves visually and hearing impaired more vulnerable

• Requires public education campaign

• Pedestrians still tend to yield to cars, not vice versa

Where is it happening?

Halifax, Canada: Argyle and Grafton streets (2017)

• London, U.K.: Exhibition Street in Kensington (2012)

• Chicago, U.S.: Argyle Street (2016)

• Drachten, the Netherlands: Laweiplein roundabout (2000, created by Monderman)

• Auckland, New Zealand: Elliott Street (2011)

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