Perspectives on Poynton

The Poynton ‘shared space’ scheme has attracted a large amount of attention, both in the UK, and abroad – attention driven principally by this seductive video, produced by Martin Cassini, an advocate of the removal, or reduction, of priority seen in Poynton.

With the best will in the world, it is hardly likely to be an objective presentation of the scheme, especially given that the councillors and designers responsible feature so heavily in the video. The only sceptics who feature are locals, who having initially voiced concerns then admit they were wrong.

The only ‘neutral’ assessment of the scheme that I am aware of is this rather good piece by Urban Movement’s Oli Davey, who raises concerns and issues, as well as outlining the benefits. So I couldn’t stop myself from taking a brief diversion to Poynton on a trip recently, to see for myself what the new scheme looks and feels like.

Now, like Oli, I had never been to Poynton before, so I can only really guess as to how much of genuine improvement the scheme represents. But I have to say that while I had many of my expectations confirmed, I was pleasantly surprised in other respects – about which more below. The scheme does seem to work quite well for drivers and pedestrians, although (as we shall see) it completely ignores cycling as a serious mode of transport.

The biggest (unresolved) problem – and one which is perhaps unfair to tie together with the redesign, since no redesign can deal with this problem – is the extraordinary volume of motor traffic passing through the town. It is still a very busy and noisy place, regardless of any benefits that might flow from the new arrangement. 26,000 vehicles a day pass through the main junction in Poynton (the one that has been changed). This is hardly a civilised environment, regardless of the way the junction is arranged.

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The visualisations of Poynton (and to a certain extent the video produced by Martin Cassini) seem, to me at least, to wish away this motor traffic.

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These are very busy roads, and there is certainly none of the ‘mingling’ in the carriageway by pedestrians that might be expected with the employment of the term ‘shared space’. In particular, while I wasn’t able to make counts, the proportion of traffic composed of HGVs seemed quite large.

Vehicles queuing on the approach to the centre of the town

Vehicles queuing on the approach to the centre of the town

While I am not able to make a comparison between the current situation, and the ‘before’ Poynton, there is still considerable congestion here. It may be slightly better, it may be slightly worse, I don’t know, but there were long queues on the arms of the junction, even in the middle of the afternoon.

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It’s a slightly different form of queuing, in that, rather than being completely stationary, followed by bursts of movement, the traffic is just trundling along very slowly, at less than walking pace.

This does have benefits (which we’ll come to), but from a cycling perspective, this trundling, combined with the road layout, is just one of the ways in which the scheme is pretty awful. There’s nowhere to go, and you are left stuck, standing, in the fumes of the queuing traffic. This is particularly frustrating in the context of the wide footways that have been created.


Cycling as an inclusive mode of transport really hasn’t been considered at all in this scheme. The narrow carriageways block your progress on the approaches, and they are really quite intimidating on the exits, as you are forced to adopt a strong ‘primary position’ in the middle of the narrow lanes, to prevent overtakes. It’s not really for the faint-hearted, at all, especially given the nature and volume of the traffic. It was actually a relief for me to get back onto the ‘conventional’ and unadjusted tarmac road, where I could at least move over and let traffic past.

DSCN9924 Indeed, it was particularly telling to observe how distinctly the people cycling here fall into two types. Those using the road were, without exception, wearing helmets and lycra, and were almost all male.

DSCN9837 DSCN9852 DSCN9856 DSCN9936Meanwhile, those cycling like pedestrians on the pavement looked like… pedestrians.

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This kind of division is precisely the kind you would expect to see when you fail to design for cycling in its own right. People will fall into one or other of the available options – cycling like a motor vehicle (hardly an attractive option for all), or cycling like a pedestrian (not attractive for those who want to make progress, or indeed for pedestrians). Indeed, Poynton is almost a classic example of the poverty of the ‘dual provision’ approach. Both forms of provision are unacceptable.

To that extent, whatever the overall benefits of Poynton, it is worrying to see it being lauded from a cycling perspective. Indeed, it features in several places in Sustrans’ new ‘Handbook for Cycling Friendly Design’, which is quite troubling. Cycling has been completely ignored here, and any benefits are marginal and incidental. This is simply not what anyone interested in better cycling provision should be aiming for; this should be obvious from the types of cycling that have been produced by the scheme.

While the roundabouts (or ’roundabouts’) themselves seem to work well, with motor traffic slowly merging and moving smoothly on and off of them, the very reason they seem to work unfortunately acts to make them quite hostile from a cycling perspective. The lack of delineation and priority means drivers are not quite sure what’s going on, and slow right down – but that same lack of clarity also means that it is a bit of a free-for-all.

In the picture below I am making a right turn on the roundabout, while the driver of the Mini overtakes me through the roundabout. Unsettling.


On such a large expanse of paving, there really isn’t any way to control driver behaviour when you are cycling (taking a ‘strong position’ is meaningless). While nobody is driving especially fast, it is quite intimidating, and certainly not an attractive environment.

Another slightly irritating feature are the raised ‘pimples’ that mark out the ’roundabout’.

Fine to drive over if you are in a car, but not very good if you are on a bike, especially one with small wheels, or thinner tyres; one of these nearly caused me to come off my Brompton.

Another issue is the disintegration of parts of the carriageway (something else which gave my Brompton an almightily jolt). While the main roadways seem to be holding up acceptably, the paved areas that mark out the informal crossing points are crumbling under the weight (literally) of motor traffic –

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And the areas around the drains also seem to be suffering, in particular.

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Given that the scheme cost £4 million, I think questions have to be asked about whether corners have been cut on quality, and if not, whether spending that amount of money on this kind of road surface, when it carries such a high volume of motor traffic, is wise.

Coupled with this damage, there is of course the issue of roadworks and utilities. A large area of the scheme was being dug up when I visited. DSCN9876
This raises the question of how well the surfacing can be ‘made good’ after these roadworks, and how much extra expense is involved in doing so.

That said – despite all these negatives – I did find some surprising positives about Poynton. Two in particular stand out.

The first, and most important, is that the previous signalised junction, with two queuing lanes for vehicles on each arm, has been replaced with a new junction with just one vehicle lane on each approach. The amount of space required by vehicles on each harm has been halved, with no (alleged!) increase in congestion or delay.

DSCN9916The lesson that can be drawn is that if you manage your junctions properly – for instance, as at Poynton, replacing signal control with roundabouts – there is no need to have such a huge amount of space allocated to queuing vehicles. That space can be reallocated. In Poynton it has been given over to pedestrians, but I see no reason why in other locations it couldn’t be reallocated to cycling as well. If a junction that handles 26,000 vehicles a day can cope with just one queuing lane on each arm, this is an approach that can surely be tried elsewhere.

The other important positive I took from Poynton is the importance of physical design in influencing driver behaviour. Poynton suggests to me, clearly, that British drivers are not idiots, or exceptionally dangerous, or more badly behaved than continental drivers. While I think it fails almost entirely from a cycling perspective, Poynton illustrates how the design of the environment can be used to make people behave in ways you want them to. The informal crossing points illustrate this well. Some examples below.

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I have to say, I really didn’t think these would work. I didn’t think drivers would stop or give way; that they were just too ‘informal’. But they were working. Not just, I think, because of the way they look like an extension of the pavement across the road (this is an important detail to get right) but because the road has been designed in such a way that drivers lose nothing at all by giving way. They are already travelling very slowly, so it makes little difference to them whether they give way to pedestrians, or not. (Exhibition Road suffers badly in this respect because it still resembles a road, with no crossing points, and with nothing to slow drivers down.)

This is a lesson that can surely be transferred to cycling infrastructure in Britain. Our drivers are not badly behaved; we just have a road environment that encourages bad behaviour. If – as with Dutch roundabout and junction design – drivers are forced to travel slowly, and to think about the kinds of crossing movements they should be expecting, then they will behave just as well as their Dutch counterparts.

DSCN0149Poynton demonstrates this, with the way in which the drivers treat crossing pedestrians – the design of a scheme matters. Design for the behaviour you want, and people will respond to it, even if you think they are stereotypical British drivers who just won’t behave.

Given that Poynton is about to get a relief road, one that will (or should) remove the huge volume of motor traffic travelling through it, conditions there look set to change dramatically. Conditions would certainly be more cycle-friendly, if traffic volumes fall to those corresponding to access-only driving (although I would question how cycle-friendly the Poynton design is, even at low traffic levels).

It’s certainly an interesting experiment – albeit an expensive one – from which positive lessons can be drawn, despite the negatives I have attempted to describe here.

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221 Responses to Perspectives on Poynton

  1. Mark Hewitt says: presumably this is the main junction before the works? Looks like a reasonable traffic light controlled crossroads, somewhere which could have had cycling provision built in, but wouldn’t be too bad to ride in any case.

    Of course the main point is that the likes of Poynton shouldn’t be playing host to through traffic in the first place,

    • John Sutton says:

      As someone who only knew the junction pre redevelopment (I moved away 3 years ago) I cycled through it countless times without a problem. Traffic often queued but easy to filter past due to plenty of room on the road. There were plenty of junctions in S Manchester that made me nervous. This wasn’t one of them.

  2. Chris says:

    Was that road surface as slippery to ride on in wet conditions as it looks from the photos?

  3. T.Foxglove says:

    Thanks for the article.

    Since seeing the promotional video and being at meetings with campaigners & council officers when ‘shared space’ was lauded and Poynton held up as a shining example, it is good to know my vocal condemnation of it was accurate. 😉

    • Mark Hewitt says:

      I’m sure Mr. Hembrow will be along shortly, but we need to take lessons from places where this has been tried before, rather than trying to reinvent things and making the same mistakes.

      • Paul Gannon says:

        What? British values (at least as applied to road engineering) and all that demand reinventing things and making them worse. Doing any better would require engineers to work harder than required for standard British botch solution and politicians to understand the need for effective implementations – and that’s not in anyone’s interest!

    • Amanda Martin says:

      My partner and I travelled from Hereford to Poynton on Friday to see this scheme for ourselves and I have to say we were blown away but it. Even though the volume of traffic was very high, the slow speed and consequent low noise, together with the greenery, paving and absence of signage, created an attractive and inviting streetscape that the locals we spoke to told us had made a significant difference to the pedestrian footprint for businesses on the junction.

      I do agree with the comments made about the disappointment for cyclists. Good transport planning is not about keeping the traffic moving; we should also be providing feasible alternatives to the car for short journeys and the bicycle is not taken anywhere near seriously enough in this country. Still I can’t believe it’s not possible to tweak the scheme to remedy this. Trust me, compared to Hereford, where cyclists and pedestrians eat dust, this is a massive improvement.

  4. davidhembrow says:

    Very interesting post. Thank you.

    As is so often the case, there seems not to be much “sharing” going on in this shared space. Your photos make it very clear that this place is absolutely dominated by motor vehicles. The roundabouts would seem to be where you found most “sharing”, but even though you were there for just a short period of time you were bullied. The streets otherwise have very clearly demarcated areas for motor vehicles and for pedestrians… and of course no-where at all for cyclists. The presence of pavement cyclists is always an indication of a hostile cycling environment.

    From what you’ve shown, this is not a place that people are likely to enjoy cycling. The roundabouts look dangerous by bike. The Drachten Laweiplein “Squareabout”, announced to the world with much publicity but proven to be much less safe than its proponents claimed it would be, at least avoids the trap of being so wide that it encourages cars to cut up bikes, but the Poynton roundabouts would seem to encourage this. Safe roundabouts require that vehicles don’t overtake each other.

    It would seem that a lot of the reason why the road through Poynton is currently reasonably easy for pedestrians to cross comes down to the very large flows of motorized traffic resulting in very low speeds so that drivers have no reason not to allow pedestrians across the road. However, it appears that the pedestrians you show crossing had sought the approved crossing places to get across the road. While there may be no actual physical barriers along the side of the pavement to prevent pedestrians from crossing elsewhere, the traffic forms a barrier just as solid to pedestrians.

    I note also that the man crossing in one of your photos apparently felt he should “ask” the truck driver to stop so he could cross and then was indicating thanks, neither of which should really be necessary if the road was shared on an equal basis with pedestrians.

    How quickly were people crossing the road ? Do they idly wander across or do they feel pressure to “get out of the way”. The crossings appear to work similarly to a zebra but I don’t see how they’re superior for pedestrians when they don’t have the obvious markings or the legal priority.

    I’m struck by the extraordinary amount of traffic which flows through a town with such a small population. Rather than this scheme having made Poynton look like something from the future, it actually still looks like something from the past. Dutch towns looked just the same in the 1960s. They were dominated by trucks and cars queuing up to go through the centre. Dutch towns and cities were transformed not by installing novelty paving and junction designs, but by removing the through traffic. This results not only in cyclists being able to use streets in safety but also in pedestrians being able to wander freely and not seek out approved crossing places.

    The effect of the relief road on Poynton will only be seen after it is built. The worst case will be if it results in a smaller but still a significant number of motor vehicles going through the centre. In that case, speeds will increase over the current traffic jam conditions and pedestrians will probably find it more difficult to cross the road.

    If the traffic is successfully removed by the relief road then I’m left wondering about what was supposed to have been achieved by installing the expensive yet already crumbling paving before the needs of the now reduced traffic centre were taken into account. Removing the through traffic will of course make it a relatively good place to walk or cycle, but that’s a function of low traffic not specifically of the road layout. Any place without cars is pretty good for walking and cycling.

    BTW, I’m not quite sure what you meant by “roundabouts (or ’roundabouts’)”.

    • Chris says:

      “I note also that the man crossing in one of your photos apparently felt he should “ask” the truck driver to stop so he could cross and then was indicating thanks, neither of which should really be necessary if the road was shared on an equal basis with pedestrians.”

      Surely that’s just common courtesy? I’d show it to someone slowing or stopping for me to cross the road as a pedestrian, for someone letting me in when I’m driving or any similar situation.

      I don’t think you can make any sort of political point out of this pedestrian simply being polite. It’s not ‘necessary’ to say thanks to a bus driver when you get off a bus, for example – he is, after all, being paid to drive you – but anyone whose parents brought them up to be a decent human being would express their thanks anyway, simply because it’s the polite thing to do, whether it’s necessary or not!

      • pm says:

        Hmmm…your post reminds me of an episode of Room 101 where Jack Dee did his comedic grumpus schtick, complaining about pedestrians not thanking him for stopping at zebra crossings!

        As a pedestrian I find I am forever waiting at the kerb while cars that arrived there long after me whizz past in an endless stream. Not once has a motorist personally thanked me for doing so!

        Why should pedestrians have to thank motorists for stopping to let them pass when they never return the favour, eh?

        (I’m not 100% sure if I’m being serious or not)

      • John Bennett says:

        You’ve missed the point Chris. The fact that the pedestrian has had to ask the HGV driver to stop and then thank him for not running him down indicates that he did not feel that he had the same level of priority to the “shared space” as the motorists. In a true shared space, the motorist should be just as likely to thank the pedestrian for waiting to allow him through.

    • Thanks David.

      You raise an interesting point about how this scheme might work when it is less congested. I only managed to stay for about four hours, but I did notice that as the rush hour died down, traffic did seem to speed up. It’s likely that it would be more difficult to cross the road with these higher traffic speeds; if drivers aren’t queuing, they may be less inclined to yield.

      From what I saw, people weren’t rushing across the road at these crossing points. The design actually borrows a little from the Dutch approach to junctions, with the crossing point set back from the junction, so that you cross behind a queuing vehicle. I have also questioned why zebras wouldn’t work more effectively here (albeit without the necessary legal clutter that unfortunately accompanies them in the UK).

      I put the word ’roundabouts’ in inverted commas because it is asserted by the designers that these aren’t actually roundabouts!

      • Tom says:

        I’ve observed for a relatively short time at night in pouring rain. Most cars traversed the rotaries-not-roundabouts without issue.

        But a significant number suddenly swerved when they saw the edge of the rotary at the last minute. Not good.

        They were all turning from Park Lane right onto the northbound A523, and the “pavement” bulges into the road in an odd and unexpected manner.

    • As a walker you don’t need to ask permission to cross. It’s the traditional rules of the road which put the onus on the vulnerable to defer to the mighty. Ben’s scheme seeks to restore balance of power in favour of the vulnerable, and it does so successfully. I have a clip of myself crossing on foot every which way over the roundels themselves, deliberately not looking left or right. Invariably the traffic gives way, monster trucks included. I must get round to posting that clip …

      • John Bennett says:

        You’re either very brave or you have a very high level of faith in human nature!

        • When human nature is not twisted by dehumanising, discombobulating traffic control, it can indeed be trusted

          • pm says:

            Except that what ‘distorts’ human nature is not so much the ‘traffic control’ as the multi-tonne metal boxes one lot of humans are driving. Why are the traffic lights and the rest so ‘distorting’ while the potentially lethal vehicles themselves aren’t? The ‘distorting’ elements are already there.

      • davidhembrow says:

        It’s become a standard claim for Shared Space that it somehow lets pedestrians walk across junctions without looking. Actually, it’s not impressive at all that you’ve managed to cross this place without being run down. What you rely upon is the usual behaviour of drivers, who contrary to some opinions don’t actually set out in the morning with the intention of injuring pedestrians and who will react by either stopping or driving around you.

        Such claims are always an anecdote, a sample of size one. The reality, as we see from Mark’s photos above, is that people usually cross with caution.

        Hans Monderman famously made the claim that he could walk backwards over Shared Space junctions such as the Laweiplein in Drachten with his eyes closed. He believed it strongly enough that he was even willing to demonstrate this. However, in reality he wasn’t actually demonstrating that the Laweiplein was safe, but that even at unsafe junctions you can get away with doing daft things most of the time because most other people will adapt.

        Now that some years have passed and the statistics have been done, we can see the true safety record of Shared Space. In reality, the Laweiplein has a much worse safety record than other roundabouts. So the reality is that Hans wasn’t made safe by Shared Space. Rather, as one individual walking across one junction he didn’t put himself at such a great risk as people might imagine.

        It’s clear that you believe that Poynton is safe, but believing something doesn’t make it true. Where is the control for this experiment ? In reality, there are a great many other perfectly normal junctions across which you can walk “every which way” and “deliberately not looking left or right”. If you try the experiment at a randomly selected range of other similarly busy junctions without prejudice, you’ll get away with it most of the time there just as you will in Poynton or any other Shared Space.

        • When you walk across a shared space you are not taking a risk because, with no traffic lights to distract them, drivers are watching the road. Of course you couldn’t do the same on a standard priority or signal-controlled junction. If Drachten’s accident record at the link you posted is correct, it could be seen as supporting my call for street redesign to be combined with culture change, re-education and legal reform. Equality Streets.

          • Tom says:

            So there’s no risk because drivers are “watching the road”?! I think that will get short shrift on a cycling forum. What about the drivers that are:
            *using their phone
            *tired or inattentive
            *chatting to a passenger
            *under the influence
            *just plain abusive “Jeremy Clarksons”

          • davidhembrow says:

            Every discussion about the problems due to shared space seems to result in the sound of moving goalposts from the proponents. This is no exception.

            Rather than accepting the real figures for safety in Drachten, you firstly made a bizarre statement about “not taking a risk” at precisely the type of junctions where we know that there is an elevated risk, secondly cast doubt upon the real safety figures and thirdly switched to talking about “culture change, re-education and legal reform” as means to address a risk which you first of all said didn’t exist.

            I’ll make it simple: Shared Space is not working. It’s proven to be dangerous. Nothing else is completely risk free either, but other junction designs are proven to be safer. Other designs have long term results which show fewer injuries.

            Rather than suggest safe designs, you want to try to solve the problem by modifying the basic nature of how human beings behave.

            What percentage of the 65 million population of the UK do you expect to have to “re-educate” in order for a Shared Space junction to approach the already proven safety levels of this roundabout design and this traffic light junction design ?

            Those designs have not only proven to be genuinely safe, but they have this record of safety when used by existing human beings. Without re-education, they already achieve far better safety records than Shared Space junctions.

            There is no need for hand-waving explanations because we have statistics instead. The safe way to design roads is already understood.

          • Paul Gannon says:

            Why has the pedestrian’s right to cross the road at junctions (Highway Code: ‘give way to pedestrians already crossing the road into which you are turning’) been reduced to irrelevance and motor vehicle priority imposed? This applies at that vast number of junctions where there are no traffic lights or other controls. In London this has led to the need to introduce lights (& pedestrian phases) in places as there are many junctions where it is effectively impossible to cross the road for pedestrians. As a pedestrian I never voluntarily gave up this right, rather it has been taken away from me/us by the threat of serious injury at junctions and endorsed by state/police/judiciary indifference. I find your approach is theoretical and doesn’t apply to the real world when I need to cross roads.

            • Tom says:

              Some people in Poynton have indeed found “motor vehicle priority imposed”.

              Example 1: blind people are excluded – having tried it several times, they declare it “impossible” and “horrendous”.

              Example 2: I’ve talked to three (!) residents[*], including one in Cassini’s video – she was more ambivalent about Poynton that is seen in the video, and has had to help an elderly person across the road because “I’ve tried crossing 5 times and nobody has stopped”.

              I have observed that it often isn’t so much that proponents’ “approach is theoretical”, rather is is more philosophical to the point of being dogma. Either way, such extreme views aren’t operable on this planet – which is a shame because the daftness obscures shared spaces limited advantages.

              [*] not too bad for an unpaid amateur, considering paid shared spaced proponents declared Ashford a success after observing a mere 30 people!

            • I think we agree. The Highway Code has been trumped by regulation and highway law, which are anathema to civilised road-user interaction

        • Tom says:

          Serious academic peer-reviewed research demonstrates that shared spaces claimed advantages are not supported by the evidence used to make the claims! See and and the extracts from the abstract below.

          When presented with such evidence, a typical response is “oh, but that’s not a *real* shared space”, sometimes followed by ad-hominem attacks on the authors, usually by avoiding the questions – but never by a decent rebuttal of the points raised.

          It therefore falls to other people to call them to task, lest their enthusiasm beguiles the credulous onlooker.

          Abstract: “…most pedestrians diverted away from their desire lines, gave way to vehicles in most cases and felt safer under the original road layout. … The authors conclude that some of the claims made on behalf of shared space have overstated the available evidence, and that caution is needed in implementing shared space schemes, particularly in environments of high traffic flows.”

      • Tom says:

        Contrariwise, neither do the vehicles need permission to drive over the pavements by the rotaries. Yup, vehicles feel free to share the pavements, and even a short visit enabled me to get a couple of photos of them doing it (without incident).

        I never saw a pedestrian dare to use that part of the pavement. Cars:1 Pedestrians:nil 😦

    • Pete Owens says:

      So after years telling us all that shared space can only work in situations where there is very very little traffic – and thus couldn’t possibly work in a place like Poynton – you are now attempting to tell us that Poynton only works BECAUSE of the high volume of traffic.

      It is very easy to see how well the scheme works under lower traffic volumes simply by visiting at less busy times of day. At some times there are no queues – and even at busy times traffic is free flowing as it heads away from the junction – It simply does so slowly at speeds at which drivers cyclists and pedestrians can happily coexist. There is no bullying – people simply cross the road as and when they feel like. You can bumble along slowly wobbling on an old folding bike and make right turns without feeling in the least intimidated. No one attempts to overtake because it is obvious that there isn’t room (nothing to do with taking a “strong primary”) Because the place does not feel like a conventional road, without all the implicit messages according priority to motor traffic drivers adapt to the environment – they interact with other people using the space rarther that relying on the rules of priority which pas the entire resposibility to everyone else keeping out of their way.

      Actually it is very easy to see just how civilizing this scheme is – by the simple means of riding to the boundary of the scheme. As soon as you reach the conventional street design then drivers revert to normal behaviour – they expect to be able to overtake cyclists whenever they encounter them and they do not notice pedestrians wainting to cross. It is the same drivers on the same road in the same volume yet it feels utterly different – just within a few metres.

      To get a feel of how Poynton used to be simply ride a couple of km North to Hazel Grove where you can see a conventional signal controlled with all the usual cattle pens multi stage crossings for pedestrians and so on.

      I find it difficult to believe that that people ar still falling for the “building roads to reduce traffic” spin. I thought even the highway engineers had stopped pedlling that myth – and now simply justify their schemes on the grounds of reducing travel times for motoriists (whose time they consider very much more valuable than us slf propelled types) and accepting the resulting traffic growth as an inevitable consequence. That sheme is simply a spur off a proposed dual carriage way to feed E-W traffic to Manchester Airport (ie perpendicular to the A537 – the main road running N-S through the town). The only traffic that would be “relieved” by the spur is traffic generated by the new road.

      • Tom says:

        Some *quantitative* statements based on research may be helpful; makes a change from mere qualitative hand-waving and wishful thinking.

        The Department for Transport’s document “Manual for Streets” is often cited by Hamilton-Baillie, can be found at Key section is “7.2.14 Subject to making suitable provision for disabled people, shared surface streets are likely to work well where the volume of motor traffic is below 100 vehicles per hour (vph) (peak)”. How much latitude is there in the figure of 100vph? Less than I imagined.

        The Transport Research Laboratory did research ( that finds
        “This study found that below flows of 90 vehicles per hour pedestrians were prepared to mingle with traffic. When flows reached 110 vehicles per hour pedestrians used the width between frontages as if it were a traditional road, that is the majority of pedestrians remained on the equivalent of the footway and left the carriageway clear for vehicles. … The study indicated that pedestrians were more at ease when the traffic flow consisted of buses only rather than a higher mix of general traffic.”

        • Tom says:

          Unfortunately Mr Hamilton-Baillie is now proposing a shared space scheme where traffic flows are roughly 3 to 5 times higher! The current figures in *his* report are 506vph, 276vph, 337vph, (morning, day, afternoon), i.e. all >> 110vph. I really don’t see how he can responsibly justify exceeding the 110vph by such a large margin.

          I doubt the local shopkeepers would like traffic reduced by the 60%-80% necessary for pedestrians to feel comfortable visiting their shops!

          In addition, the road and pavement are *much* narrower than those at Poynton, so there’s no possibility of cyclists using the pavement.

          • The traffic counts you quote are nothing like as high as Poynton. Poynton has 26,000 vehicles per day, which equates to peak times of something like 5000 vehicles per hour

            • Tom says:

              They are not my figures: they are from the Department of Transport, Transport Research Laboratory, and Hamilton-Baillie Associates. The first two don’t have any financial “skin in the game”.

              The disparity needs explanation and justification; mere assertions are irrelevant.

      • If the scheme is so wonderful can you explain why people are cycling on the pavement?

        • The new pavements are now easily wide enough to accommodate cycling, and as far as I remember, and it would be good to hear Ben’s comment on this, there’s nothing to say cyclists can’t use the roadside part of the pavements.

        • pm says:

          Talking about ‘the spirit’ won’t cut any ice with any police officer who decides they want to fine you. Why should I have to risk a fine because the designers forgot about the existence of cyclists? Will they guarantee to pay the fine for any cyclist who gets nabbed?
          That said, it doesn’t seem as if it would be impossible to retrofit an actual cycle lane there in place of part of the pavement. Doing so would surely remove one of the main objections to this arrangement.

  5. Thanks to Tom Gardner for alerting me to this well-worded, well-illustrated balanced article. I’m not sure why part of the carriageway space reclaimed from vehicles was not painted green or given cycle symbols. If I was cycling there in queuing traffic, I would use the roadside part of the broad pavements. In the video, it’s me cycling across the roundels with a headcam. I found it exhilarating rather than intimidating. No pointless hold-ups. You simply assert your equal right to the road space and join the flow.

    I didn’t deliberately avoid showing heavy traffic, indeed I went along at rush-hour in search of it. But I live 200+ miles away, and on the 5 or 6 occasions when I went up to record different stages of the scheme, I could only work with what I saw. Unfortunately some of my visits, including the “before” phase, were during school holidays when traffic was relatively light.

    When you consider that underground drain repairs took 8 months or more, and the new road surface and pavements stretch for several hundred yards in every direction, £4m is a snip! You’re right about the patches of decaying surface. From memory, Ben had specified paving foundations of seven inches (I will email him a link to this article so he might correct me on this), but towards the end of the job, things were taken out of his hands, and the council used their own contractors who went to a depth of only 4 inches.

    Has T.Foxglove seen none of the benefits? Is he hard-geared only to condemn?

    • Thanks for your comment Martin.

      People like you and me are content (to different extents, obviously) to cycle in these kinds of conditions, on the ‘road’, but it is quite apparent that the vast majority of people aren’t. These are the people cycling on the pavements in Poynton, to say nothing of the people who won’t even go near a bike in the first place. If we are serious about significantly increasing cycling levels in Britain (and why wouldn’t be, given the enormous benefits that would accrue from doing so, from multiple perspectives) we need to create conditions that are attractive for this non-cycling majority, who are far less inclined to cycle in traffic than the current traffic-tolerant minority.

      In Poynton, this majority demographic is left with the pavement – but I don’t think that’s a satisfactory solution, either for them, or for the pedestrians who would be forced to share with them.

    • But should nipping to the shops be an “exhilarating” journey? Should a ten year old “asset [their] equal right to the road space and join the flow” in order to get to school?

      Riding on the footway is still illegal in the UK, though widely practised. But what happens at the junctions, or when reaching the shared space area? Hop back into the flow of traffic?

      I’m glad it works for you, but I don’t see how it could possibly work for all those people who don’t currently cycle for utility but would like to.

      • Chris says:

        Does anyone know how many people would actually get off their bottoms and cycle if we did have separate infrastructure?

        The sheer number of people who inexplicably sit in traffic for hours going into Central London every morning to avoid cycling or using public transport would suggest to me that even if large numbers of people answer surveys with “I don’t cycle because I don’t feel safe” actually mean “I don’t cycle because I’m too bloody lazy” but are ashamed to admit it!

        • Well if we had some infrastructure we’d know, wouldn’t we! But with the conditions as they are, you can’t blame people for not choosing a bike.

          All you have to do is look at the Netherlands. When they built roads, more people drove. When they built cycle paths, more people cycled. We’re really not that different.

        • Mark Hewitt says:

          I think the answer is that the Dutch are not that different to the British, just as lazy, and yet they embrace the bicycle.

        • Spoquey says:

          ha ha well some surveys show that 87 per cent of children in London would like to cycle to school over any other form of transport. So really that’s what we should be aiming for folks.

          • Amanda Martin says:

            Yes I agree. You get what you pay for with transport planning: if you provide for cyclists you get cyclists; if you build roads you get traffic.

            The lesson of history and experience here and abroad is that there is a good deal of suppressed demand for cycling and, after all, shouldn’t we be making the right choices the easy choices, or even just providing choices?

            • We disagree again, Amanda. If you design and build roads for equality, you can accommodate all modes in bustling harmony

              • Tom says:

                By “building roads for equality”, how do you make HGVs and busses equal to cyclists and disabled buggies? Design for the lowest common factor, e.g. HGVs and busses going at 4mph?

              • pm says:

                But where is the ‘equality’ when some modes take up a vastly greater area of roadspace than others? How does someone on a bike or on foot get an equal share of the road to someone in a large 4×4 (which have been getting larger recently) under your system?

                Where is the equality when one motorist can take up space that could accommodate half a dozen cyclists? In the end there is a finite space, and it can be used for one mode of transport or another. The more cars, the less space there is for other modes.

                You have a questionable definition of ‘equality’, it seems to me, in that it takes a starting point of inequality as an unchangeable given.

              • In the shared space scenario, size doesn’t matter. Who is driving the truck, or pedalling the bike or walking the dog? Human beings, equal under the skin, instinctively cooperative when free to feel and express empathy. By contrast, conventional traffic control is inhumane: it instils greater respect for a traffic light than for human life.

              • pm says:

                But of course size matters!
                You are now claiming ‘shared space’ can somehow evade the laws of physics, that mean two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. If a car takes up a given amount of road-space that excludes bikes from using that same space more efficiently. Its physical reality.

      • If roads were intrinsically safe (which they would be in shared space/on Equality Streets), instead of intrinsically dangerous (which they are under the delinquent priority system), 10 year-olds, and toddlers would indeed be able to go in perfect safety, The onus would be on the motorist to beware the vulnerable, instead of the other way round, which the traditional cock-eyed system requires. To re-coin Orwell’s sayng: All road-users are equal, but the weak are more equal than others.

        • Sean Howes says:

          Can you please explain to me how a 10 year old or a toddler can be perfectly safe mixing with HGV in shared space? I dont see many on Exhibition road? I am not sure most of them would be able to assert there authority and while the onus could be on motorists the reality is pedestrians and cyclists would still stay away as it would feel unsafe and both groups would be at the mercy of the heavy vehicle not making a mistake and killing them. Do you have children would you like them to cycle around Poynton or down Exhibition road ?

          The reality is the motorists hold all the power no matter how much guff you put in the road or how difference you make the surface appear. The motorist is safe as if they make a mistake nothing happens to them. The pedestrian and cyclist is not safe as if they or a motorist makes a mistake they get seriously hurt or die. No amount of crazy paving addresses this and schemes like this are just another attempt by Vehicular cyclists to convince us all that mixing with heavy traffic is fun and safe. Its not, I am tired of doing it I do it every day and face aggressive motorist and unpleasantness even in shared spaces. I want segregated infra so I can cycle and my friends can cycle without our trips to mundane locations being exhilarating. Oddly most of my less confident friends dont use the word exhilarating they say scary. Then they say maybe next time they will cycle on the pavement or just get the bus.

          • Tom says:

            Have a look at the comments to his video on youtube – and make your own mind up as to whether he answers or dodges similar questions.

          • The current priority system is a licence for drivers to kill. If they have a green light and kill a child, they are guiltless in the eyes of the law. They will suffer a lifetime of nightmares; rather like the dead child, they are victims of a barbaric system. You seem stuck inside the box marked “priority”. If, instead of living and dying by priority, we lived by equality, children would indeed be safe. As it is, we have to teach our toddlers age-inappropriate road safety drill to protect them from roads which priority turns into rivers of death. How can a toddler tell the difference between a grey pavement and a grey road? “Exhilarating” is synonymous with fun. Competing for gaps and green time or being stopped needlessly at red is not fun. Merging in a merry mix on a level playing-field is.

            • pm says:

              This is daft. There’s no ‘equality’ between HGVs and children! It’s not a ‘level playing field’, both are not equally a threat to the other.

              • Tom says:

                Especially since HGVs are equally able to share the pavement with pedestrians.

                Two weeks ago a bus very nearly shared the pavement with me, but didn’t because its tyres came up against the normal full-height kerb. OTOH, in Poynton the kerbs are about 1cm high and are easier to traverse that the average pothole – thus making “sharing space” all too easy.

              • The lorry is driven by a sentient human being who probably has children of his own. Let him live by equality and he will respect the child as an equal and act accordingly. Look below the surface. I liked your bugbear post by the way

              • pm says:


                Though it could, on the other hand, turn out to be Joao Lopes or Dennis Putz. Not sure I’d want a child of mine to take that chance. Not sure _I’d_ want to take that chance.

                It only takes one bad driver (or one case of ‘the sun was in my eyes’/’my unborn baby unexpectedly kicked’ to quote two recent excuses for killing cyclists) and its the vulnerable party who pays the price.

                The point of good infrastructure is to save people from themselves as well as much as from others.

                This seemed a fair article – not everything about these projects is bad, but they really don’t solve the underlying problem (and they seem to cost a fortune).

              • Depends what you see as “good” infrastructure. If it expresses a traffic engineering context, with unequal priority, it’s bad. To be good, it must express a social context. A culture of equality is the key to safety, efficiency and cooperative coexistence between all modes. The £4m price tag is tremendous value when you take into account the extent of the redesign, the major drain repairs, the fact that road surface repairs and traffic signal upgrades were “needed” anyway, and the transformation, both social and economic, that the scheme has brought about.

              • Tom says:

                @pm Your statement “…not everything about these projects is bad…” is, IMHSHO, correct. Unfortunately the shared space zealots tend to only see good points and ignore the bad. Then they attempt to convert people/communities to their cause even though, dispassionately, it will cause the people/communities as many problems as it solves. That should be resisted.

                Let’s use shared space concepts *only* where they make sense.

            • And when we can expect Full Communism to be in place?

        • davidhembrow says:

          Hang on, what’s this “intrinsically safe” nonsense ? Shared Space has shown itself absolutely NOT to be intrinsically safe. In fact, Shared Space junctions and streets have quite bad safety records.

          Far more people are injured than on better Dutch street designs with segregation. The difference is especially to be seen at the junctions.

          If you want safety, build this type of roundabout and this type of traffic light junction. Those are the proven safe designs which genuinely do have low injury rates over many years of use.

          • Yes, intrinsically safe. The nonsense bit is the idea that priority and its spawn, traffic lights, are safe. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the latest safety audit from Westminster City Council shows that 44% of personal injury “accidents” occurred at traffic lights. How many of the remainder were due to priority? Compiled in the context of priority, the stats don’t tell us. So I find it hard to take them seriously. It’s standard practice to blame driver error, never the system which causes the “errors” in the first place, a system which presides over 25,000 human casualties every year in this country alone. Re the potentially interesting diagonal cycle ways using signals, they are located on a ten lane highway, irrelevant to Poynton and most urban settings.

            • pm says:

              But that’s a pretty weak use of statistics! That the accidents occur at the lights doesn’t mean the lights cause them, that’s very unconvincing argument!

              What were the accident figures before the traffic lights were there?

              Traffic lights and all the rest were put in in the first place because the increasing weight of motor traffic made them necessary to avoid the accidents. The best solution of course is to reduce the quantity of traffic that made the lights necessary, not to remove the lights and hope for the best.

              • pm, not so. The reason for traffic lights is to break the priority streams of traffic so others can cross. Thus is most traffic control an expensive exercise in self-defeat. Remove priority, and you remove the “need” for lights, and the need for speed, enabling all road-users to filter more or less in turn.

            • Tom says:

              That’s a silly misuse of statistics falling into the “post hoc ergo prompter hoc” fallacy. Don’t they teach anyone anything any more? 🙂

              By the same token we should remove people from homes since, according to ROSPA, more accidents occur at home than anywhere else.

              • There you go again, Tom, producing an absurd analogy. I don’t say remove people from roads to cut “accidents” (though I suspect you might). I say replace the priority system which makes roads dangerous in the first place.

              • John Bennett says:

                Jeepers weepers! “Replace the priority system which makes roads dangerous”? Have you ever seen a junction at peak time when the lights fail in all directions? It is chaos; followed by gridlock. Not a single driver yields an inch. Consequently, the roads are blocked for hours.

              • Whenever I’ve experienced lights out of action, even across the whole of central London in Nov 2007 and Feb 2008 (when I was living in King’s Cross), congestion disappeared and courtesy thrived.

            • davidhembrow says:

              As other have already pointed out, this is a horrible mis-use of statistics.

              Accidents occur at traffic lights because those accidents which occur have to take place somewhere, and there are a lot of traffic lights in London. This says nothing at all about the relative safety of Westminster traffic lights vs. other junction designs.

              The “potentially interesting diagonal” is not only located on a ten lane highway. There are many road junctions which use this design and they are of many sizes. The article that you clicked on has a title which includes the words “scales to almost any size” for a reason ! If you scroll down a short distance then you’ll see large and small examples. Indeed, at this link you can see yet more examples (you’ll have to scroll down to see them all). These junctions have a genuinely good safety record.

              The correct way of making human error less likely to cause injury and death is to follow the principles of sustainable safety. Remove conflict and the possibility for small errors to turn into injuries and the roads become safer. This, again, is backed up by actual statistics.

              • The correct way to make human error less likely is to create a safe framework within which all road-users can interact sociably, as equals. We don’t need saving from each other. We need saving from a system which alienates us from each other, imposes unequal rights, produces conflicting speeds, licenses aggression, and denies infinite filtering opportunities and expressions of fellow feeling.

              • davidhembrow says:

                You’ve again dodged the question. Your previous dismissal of Simultaneous Green did not hold up but you’ve moved on to something else now.

                Unfortunately, Martin, we actually do need saving from each other and even from ourselves. Sustainable Safety has proven efficacy, which is more than can be said for Shared Space.

                Human beings are not perfect machines. We make errors. That is part of being human. Any system which relies on humans behaving perfectly will fail when humans make those inevitable errors. What’s more, the whole of human history is made up of one example after another of people imposing their will through force.

                What creates the situation that you concern yourself with, where there are conflicting speeds and unequal rights, is that some road-users are protected by and cut off from society by a steel cage and have a hundred horsepower to play with while the others are simply humans either walking or cycling with nothing but their own power.

                It is only by removing the motor vehicles that the playing field is leveled.

                There are many successful demonstrations of the principles of pedestrianization and removing through motor traffic. Both these things really do work. They really do improve safety and comfort for vulnerable road users. They work precisely because “sharing” with motor vehicles is reduced.

                Sadly you’re stuck with this idea of trying to create equality by implementing Shared Space, a system which actually creates inequality. This may have seemed reasonable before we knew the true safety record of Shared Space, but yours is an absurd view to take now when we have evidence that this not only feels unsafe but is actually unsafe.

                People don’t need motor vehicles to have “infinite filtering opportunities” in order to be safe. What they need is for motor vehicles to be elsewhere so that the chance of collision is genuinely reduced.

              • It might take more than a few isolated examples of shared space design to change the bad habits of a lifetime and therefore to alter the skewed accident statistics. I repeat, shared space needs to be combined with culture change, re-education (including a comprehensive driving test) and legal reform. Even so, “accidents” will be far worse on conventionally-controlled junctions and streets than in low-speed shared space environments.

              • pm says:


                You mean the system of motorised transport?

                The fundamental disagreement I have is that you speak as if, sans traffic lights and other forms of regulation, there’s nothing there but human beings interacting directly. Which ignores the fact that there is _already_ something there, distorting this ‘equal interaction’ of which you speak. You are ignoring the two-tonne metal elephant in the living room.

                Why do you think the traffic lights and signage and the rest are an invalid and alien intrusion while the cars aren’t? To me that position seems illogical. The trouble is that the alienation you rightly think is a problem has already occurred once people get into cars. The ‘system’ you object to comes _after_ that problem has already arisen. The alienation is sadly unavoidable, the argument is how to ameliorate its effects.

              • I “hear you” but see it differently. In my view, priority as a basis for road-user relationships is a recipe for disaster. All modes can interact safely given a culture of equality and given road design that expresses a social context. The metal box in the room is a spectre generated by the conventional, anti-social rules and design of the road.

            • Like AsEasy, I suspect that a key feature of Poynton is the very slow crawl of traffic up to the junction -which has to be created by heavy traffic and/or hard landscaping including narrowing the road. Narrow roads with heavy traffic are poor for cycling.
              My two questions are:
              1) How much faster do vehicles approach the junction when traffic is light (and does the junction lead to a higher risk of the occasional fast driver, ‘boy racers’ or the merely unobservant who think they have priority)?
              2) If you built another Poynton, could you include space for cycling (proper space that is, not on the pavement) without making the road feel wider and therefore increasing vehicle speeds? If the answer is ‘yes’, that’s great, but if you can only do it by only by segregating the cycling space so other vehicles can’t use it, then it is not ‘shared space’.

              • Tom says:

                Precisely. Shared space zealots don’t acknowledge shared spaces have their downsides too.

                What will happen if the proposed bypass is built and the Poynton queues become much shorter and the traffic faster? (Personally I suspect sane cyclists will end up sharing the pavement with pedestrians.)

              • Standard traffic control and road design are anathema to civilised values, but I’m no zealot, nor is Ben. Your default position of seeing the half-empty glass, and rubbishing attempts to mitigate the fallout from 80 years of defective roads policy, and the absence of constructive contributions suggest zealotry for conventional roads policy and practice. This might be my last reply to you.

              • I filmed when traffic was not particularly heavy. As Ben says in the video, the zone is designed for slow speeds, and they are achieved without special limits. You can’t legislate for “maniacs”, with or without traffic lights. I’m no designer, but I might have used part of the reclaimed carriageways for cycle ways painted green (certainly not the irritating Boris blue they chose in London).

              • Tom says:

                @equalitystreets1: “you can’t legislate for maniacs” Very true. But you can *and must* have simple easy design features that encourage them to be less maniacal. Anything less is irresponsible.

                If they can see they will suffer instant damage, they are less likely to endanger others. Simple examples are full height kerbs or regular bollards at the edge of pavements – they know they will damage their vehicle, so they make sure they don’t stray onto the pavement.

                They also have the advantage of making pedestrians feel less exposed – see Bedminster for an example.

            • Speed still seems to be a key issue here. Slower speeds make a more pleasant environment as well as giving everyone more time to check for other road users and to react to avoid crashes; if a crash occurs, the injury and damage done is far less. For the main roads in our towns which DO have lots of cars and lorries, Slow, steady speeds are inherently more desirable than stop-start races to the next traffic light (true even for a Dutch-style bike-free roads, I think).
              If Poynton-style design really can improve safety and maintain vehicle throughput whilst reducing the number of lanes needed, it not only goes some way towards making cycling less bad than it was before, but also frees up space. In Poynton, this space was given to pedestrians, but maybe it can also be given to cyclists.
              The questions are still:
              How well is speed controlled in different conditions?
              What hard landscaping is needed and how do you give space for cyclists who, judging from AsEasy’s photos, still need more done to make the road viable for them?

  6. Philip says:

    One minute from the suggestion of Mr Hembrow arriving… 🙂

    Looking at the map, I’m not sure where all those HGVs are going, but it looks like the relief road would be cutting across from the south of the town to the west. The airport link road would cut across from the west to the north. The alignment doesn’t look like any drivers would want to use it to bypass the town from south to north, so it’s quite likely the road through the middle of the town would still be used for journeys from Macclesfield to Stockport.

    The airport link road looks like one of those roads which would be called a motorway on the continent and will form a relief road for congestion on the southern section of the M60. Any reduction in congestion is likely to be countered by drivers currently heading west out of Macclesfield on the A587 and north on the A34 using the main road through Poynton and the A6 through Hazel Grove.

    So, yes, agreed. Highly doubtful that it will successfully reduce traffic and if it did, it would just increase speeds through that junction. If the HA/Council genuinely wanted to make the town more pedestrian friendly, they could have spent the £4m + whatever millions on the relief road on a single carriageway each direction ring road (the town is only 2km diameter = 6.3km circumference) and closed all four arms of that crossroads to through motor traffic.

    • davidhembrow says:

      I must have heard you somehow…

      Thanks for your assessment of what might happen with a relief road. One of the problems with such roads in the UK is that they rarely work effectively as “bypasses” (the old term, which ought to be descriptive but often isn’t).

      I find it quite staggering that such a small place should have had such a lot of traffic going through it. yet that the “solution” which was not only proposed but also built was a change to the paving.

      Paving wasn’t ever the real problem so it shouldn’t have been the solution either. The real problem was through traffic and the real solution should have been to remove that traffic.

  7. platinum says:

    My only experience of this scheme was going from Alton Towers to Stockport, ie this was a main through road. My brother’s only response was ‘this is weird’, then he carried on driving as usual. It was only months afterwards when I got interested in cycling issues that I heard about this scheme and the dots connected. I live in Scotland, it’s not something I’m going to learn how to ‘share’ by doing it more than once, the road has to be 100% intelligible first time, and in my particular case, (which I know doesn’t count scientifically), the Poynton scheme worked like any other road in the country – cars dominant and everyone else had better know their place – just with nice paving.

  8. Robbob says:

    Chris says “Surely that’s just common courtesy? I’d show it to someone slowing or stopping for me to cross the road as a pedestrian, for someone letting me in when I’m driving or any similar situation.” Whilst I agree up to a point, do you also thank pedestrians who have stopped on the side of the road waiting to cross who are letting you drive through.
    It always seems to be a case of “car is king” because they are bigger and faster and pedestrians have to wait for a gap in the traffic or someone “kindly” letting them cross. Shared Space is supposed to redress this balance.

    • Chris says:

      If the people made it clear that they were doing me a courtesy rather than just standing at the side of the road waiting for someone or whatever, then yes, I would thank them, although if I was moving slowly enough for all of that to register, I’d generally wave them across instead.

      I know it seems trivial, but I have a real bugbear about people not saying or waving thank you just because they don’t “need” to. A little bit more common courtesy to others from all sides could go a long way towards defusing many of the apparent issues between different groups.

      • pm says:

        I have a bugbear about people expecting to be thanked for obeying the law simply because they are in a position of relative power!

        As a pedestrian I seem to spend a huge proportion of my journeys stopping and waiting (often for what seems like an age) to let cars pass. I think its a bit of a cheek for motorists to _expect_ thanks on the rare occasions when they deign to forgo taking advantage of their position of power that they’ve somehow acquired on our streets.

        In truth I’m only irked by this because it reminds me of my irritation at Jack Dee’s comments, because that was in the context of Zebra crossings where motorists are legally supposed to stop.

        its only really in relation to official crossing places it bugs me, but what sense of entitlement leads one to expect personal thanks every time one obeys the law? (“Thanks again for not clubbing me over the head with that baseball bat!”). There’s a bit of a power/status issue in there, I think.

        I have to say as a cyclist it startles me how often pedestrians will thank me for stopping at a Zebra (though that might be because cyclists, fairly or not, don’t have a great reputation in that regard).

        A ‘shared space’ is presumably supposed to be somewhere between a zebra crossing and a normal street, so am not sure how to interpret the gesture in that context, but its not daft to suggest it might signify something. I very much doubt it is reciprocated, that every driver who drives past a pedestrian waiting to cross that road gives a nod of thanks.

    • Absolutely, it cuts both ways. When I’m on foot on trad controlled streets, I stride across the road, especially at junctions, sometimes giving a little wave of thanks, sometimes not, depending on my mood or how much I feel the driver needs reminding of their manners. Deference to drivers be damned! But I blame insensitive drivers less than I blame the system which imposes unequal rights and encourages neglect.

    • davidhembrow says:

      Robbob: Thanks for clarifying the point I was making above. Common courtesy is fine, but it certainly doesn’t go both ways on the streets, nor in shared space areas. As you put it, “car is king”. Shared Space does not redress the balance.

  9. Your assessment is absolutely spot on – there are many benefits from the scheme, and it is vastly better than the traffic-lighted dual carriageway that preceded it. It is, indeed, better for pedestrians and very much better for motorists, despite the moans.

    However your comment that cycling has been completely ignored is the whole of it. This is not a cycling solution. I don’t let my 10 year old cycle there, my 83 year old father, who was a keen cyclist, hasn’t ventured out with the advent of this scheme. It’s pretty good if you’re fit and bold and tall enough to be noticed from the cab of an HGV, the other half of the population are left cycling on the pavement, if there’s space, if they feel like “breaking the rules”, if we don’t end up with a “safety crackdown” from the local plod. That’s probably OK for Park Lane, which is primarily a shopping street with no space for separate lanes, but unforgivable for the much more generous spaces of the main junction, which are through routes and which could have easily been made safe.

    And let’s not forget CONVENIENT, because there’s absolutely no sensible reason to make cycles queue with cars when it’s busy and cars queue behind cycles when it is quiet: its ridiculous and shows a lack of knowledge about cycling infrastructure and its purpose.

    I’ve not found being tailgated by an bad tempered cement mixer driver and motorists through the various pinch points “exhilirating”. It’s not a computer game, and I only have one life.

  10. Jitensha Oni says:

    While I was pondering this, most of what I have to say has been said by others now in this thread, especially Swanky Bicycle Being, but anyway…

    Legality of crossing the middle aside, of course it’s a small roundabout (or large mini-roundabout) without give way signs and very expensive surfacing. Why else the pimples and roundel marking the middle? If it isn’t a roundabout then its a bit like an upscaled version of this (which is quite old) isn’t it?,4.77195&spn=0.005274,0.006716&t=m&z=17&layer=c&cbll=51.580963,4.772048&panoid=OYUQP4_hsUzSct0ysAgfBQ&cbp=12,306.11,,0,39.54

    In this Dutch example we have a quiet junction where CROW (and now the Draft London Cycleway Design Standards) suggests such a treatment is appropriate (as it looks it is in the new shared space scheme in Shoreditch), but as you say, bike riders are clearly not being treated as a separate mode when such a system is upscaled to Poynton traffic densities and junction size, though CROW and DLCDS would indicate they need to be. The footway and carriageway get marked, why not a cycleway? Yet again riders are being forced to fit in the gaps. There is loads of room for a dedicated cycle path marked by contrasting setts. Why not design for three distinct types of road user? Designing something spectacular for that would be innovative and undoubtedly get the designer loads of awards. What is the problem? Campaigners would like to know why a 3-tier system is so difficult for those who design and build these things to do, so they can try to break the current mindset.

    But (for AsEasyAsRiding) what did the road cyclists do when they were in the dense traffic queuing in the lanes towards the roundabout which are constrained by the central lamp-posts? Most of the road cyclists shown are already going away from the junction. Did they filter, ride on the footway or what? The chap in the top with red body and black/white sleeves seems to be cycling in quite a dangerous position in no-man’s land.

    • It is possible to filter past cars and (just about) vans. HGVs are an impossibility.

      It’s not exactly pleasant squeezing past the cars and vans though – for one thing, there isn’t a great deal of space for filtering past, and the other problem is that you have to filter on the areas at the side that are paved. These are bumpy, and (as in some of the pictures here) are disintegrating. The drains are also located in this strip. So you have to filter on a bumpy surface.

  11. rdrf says:

    Nice to see some balance here. I have a sympathy for the right kind of shared space because it can show how motorists can and do change their behaviour if pressured into doing so. The problems are:
    * What happens just outside the areas where drivers have been forced to concentrate more – they inevitably relax more and that’s where they may come across cyclists. Assessing this issue may not have happened properly because there are not large enough numbers of cyclists to have casualty figures showing a difference from before and after, and the casualties may not be taken in a way which includes the areas immediately outside the treated area.
    * What happens if the “relief road” reduces through traffic to such an extent that drivers speed up. As the post suggests, excessive speed is one of the reasons for problems at Exhibition Road, and would be here as well.
    * A “relief road” is, in my experience, a form of road building which generates motor traffic. To reduce through traffic properly you need more radical approaches to reduce motor traffic in the first place.
    * if you are serious about forcing motorists to behave properly – what shared space is all about – you don’t put in massive separation between opposing flows of motor traffic. Yet that is what is shown in the approaches to the scheme that are shown in the photographs here: “Vehicles queuing on the approach to the centre of the town” Photo 3, with traditional red hatching, and in the photo below it with the new design. By reducing this space – or taking it out altogether – you have enough space (also if you reduce just some of the pedestrian space) for cyclists to be overtaken or to undertake with room. Or for a cycle lane/track.

    • Genuine question – if not a relief road to reduce motor traffic in the area, what radical approaches do you suggest?

      In my area we have a town similarly blighted by through traffic (Renfrew), though an expensive redesign a few years ago rejected something radical and went for fancy paving and more traffic lights.

      • To a degree these ideas are location-specific but generally, do what Ben did in Poynton: reclaim carriageway space for walking, hanging out and cycling, get rid of all vestiges of priority and traffic control, design for equality and a social context, i.e. for people, not traffic. Hans Monderman put it well: “We have to find a balance between the movement and social functions of the space”. Then, virtually any volume or type of locomotion should be able to coexist in harmony.

        • That doesn’t address how to reduce motor traffic (this town looks incredibly car-sick from the photos on this blog post). It’s not going to be a very pleasant environment (noise/air pollution) regardless of who has priority.

          Also interesting that you put cycling alongside walking and hanging out, when the 3 appear to have quite different needs.

          • I’m not a magician or restrictive practitioner and don’t know the location. But if you tame the traffic by scrapping standard control and designing for egalitarian space-sharing, then speeds will fall as will revs, noise and emissions, so you gain environmentally. If volume of traffic is unbearable at certain times, then maybe you say that at those times only vehicles under 100g/km may enter the zone, which would more than halve traffic.

          • Tom says:

            I expect his response will, in some way or other, indicate that all problems have the same solution: shared spaces. That rather pessimistic view is based on his statements here and elsewhere.

            The unfortunate consequence is that shared spaces’ advantages get lost in the “daft” zealotry.

          • Heh heh! If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  12. I’ve read about the Poynton scheme but not actually seen it. Until 4 years ago I lived on the southern edge of Hazel Grove and used the route through Poynton for most of my training rides. From the pictures you’ve taken my first opinion is that the town looks much more congested than it was 4 years ago, pre redevelopment. I also question whether the new relief road will have much impact on traffic travelling north/south.

    From a cyclists’ persepctive, I never had any problems at the old traffic lighted junction. There was plenty of space to filter. The photos look like a cycling nightmare and don’t look like any definition of shared space that I’ve seen.

    Thanks for this piece, I’ve been meaning to make it back to the are and re-ride some of my old training rides for a while now and your article has motivated me to do it.

  13. Tom says:

    “Indeed, it features in several places in Sustrans’ new ‘Handbook for Cycling Friendly Design’, which is quite troubling”
    You may think it relevant that the architect behind the Poynton scheme, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, was a regional director in Sustrans. I couldn’t possibly comment.
    Source: “wackypedia” 🙂

  14. Tom says:

    I and my daughter also observed many cyclists using the pavement in Poynton. As an experienced cyclist along Manchester’s “curry mile”, she made an astute comment “people cycle on the pavement when they are afraid to cycle on the road”.

    In other words, despite the shared space movements repeated assertions, they don’t feel able to share the space: they are frightened of it.

  15. Tom says:

    “This raises the question of how well the surfacing can be ‘made good’ after these roadworks, and how much extra expense is involved in doing so.”
    That’s a very good question, and one to which I’d like to hear a convincing response from the architect, Ben Hamilton-Baillie.

    Hamilton-Baillie has stated[*] that “Setts can be more durable, robust, and suited to heavy traffic loads than bitumen. BUT they must be very carefully detailed and constructed. … The problem is that the UK has lost the skills necessary to lay them properly.”

    So, will contractors have the specialist skills? Given the repeated repair attempts, you might well doubt it.


    • Odd – that’s almost word for word what I’ve been saying for years. Got a 160 year old (minimum) street around the corner which was laid flush, and with a tight bond in flat top setts, with a very slight camber, and a course of setts laid along the edges, about 1/2″ lower as self cleaning gullies. Even in the slightest shower, it works, and apart from where utility contractors have ripped up the setts and then totally failed to repair the surface properly, the surface – after 160 years with minimal; attention is still as good as the day it was laid, probably on cold tar or puddle clay.

      Just look at the mock-setts being laid today, wide open joints with dry-mix brushed in to fill them and setts often so thin that they break, or mover or even come out, as the sand bed, leached away by water permeation, combined with the open joints failing to give the stability of close butted vertical faces fails to provide support.

      • Tom says:

        I wonder if it is professionally responsible to specify “tricky” construction techniques that are known to be beyond the competence of the average contractor responsible for implementing them.

        Remember the high alumina cement fiasco from the early 70s? High alumina cement was a very good material provided it was mixed correctly. Unfortunately navvies mixed it incorrectly by eye, and the result was that many new buildings had to be torn down.

        However, I’m neither a civil engineer nor an architect, so my knowledge of this is limited. More trivially, I’m mildly surprised that the they had smooth setts when horses were around – I guessed that he roughness helped iron horseshoes have a grip, as well as being cheaper. Besides, I don’t think horses’ loads weigh 44tonnes 🙂

  16. Mark Hewitt says: I’ve seen this picture of part of it. It’s basically a dual carriageway but with only one lane in each direction. Cyclists would have to take primary here as it’s not wide enough for overtaking, cyclists who are less confident may stay to the side and that would be exceptionally dangerous due to the width of the road and the central reserve. Rarely have I seen a road so hostile to cycling.

  17. Mark Hewitt says:

    Some ‘before’ is important too, and google streetview predates the changes

    I have to say I would be fine cycling through there, certainly more confident than I would after the changes. How much of that is because I’m familiar with such layouts I cannot honestly say.

  18. Amanda Martin says:

    I see your philosophical take on this, Martin, but I think this is getting a bit like two bald men fighting over a comb. The “integration/segregation” debate is irrelevant as a “one size fits all” discussion because it’s not a “one size fits all” network out there, is it?

    Anyone who’s visited the Woonerven in The Hague’s residential areas couldn’t possibly argue that shared space doesn’t work brilliantly at very low speeds and low traffic volumes where there’s a critical mass of pedestrians and cyclists to counteract the undoubted inbuilt advantage that motorised modes will always start off with, but you can’t just copy and paste that into a busy town or city centre and actually I don’t think we have to: in towns and cities with proper provision for cyclists, the overall impression is still that the space is, in effect, shared and there is still plenty of scope for removing signage and lights and activating people’s common sense and civility.

    As you know, I was incredibly impressed with the Poynton scheme on Friday but it did strike me as a scheme that has no place for cyclists. In the Netherlands, people habitually take trailers to the shops and markets and I would like to see that here. Just imagine that on a pavement or your average highway. We’re hated enough as it is.

    • Amanda, we might have to agree to differ. Unlike speed limits, common law principles of equal rights and responsibilities are not one-size-fits-all. They are sociable and universally applicable. Of course peaceful coexistence between all modes can flourish in high traffic volumes. As stated elsewhere, never was it more agreeable cycling in central London than when all the traffic lights were out of action, allowing motorists, including cab drivers, to relax, rediscover their humanity, smile and give way. By all means bring on human-drawn shopping carts, but allow us the freedom to choose how we get about. The main pre-requisite is a level playing-field free of priority and vexatious traffic regulation.

      • Tom says:

        Your preconditions are met in, for example, Palermo. There a numerical majority of the vehicles have serious dents, up to and including the entire front wing being missing! That’s unsurprising given that not everybody is as kind and thoughtful as you (and a few are complete sociopaths).

  19. pm says:

    The ideas of shared space are interesting, but in the end they seem to me to just be similar to many forms of anarchism – in that they are strangely blind to power differences and end up accepting a kind of might-is-right. It’s not entirely bad, but Its not enough.

    • Yes, shared space is a form of anarchy – peaceful anarchy – showing the great advantages of self-regulation over state control, and no, it instils a sense that might is wrong.

  20. benhamilton-baillie says:

    Just one thing … be careful when you say “Cycling as an inclusive mode of transport really hasn’t been considered at all in this scheme”. I can’t recall meeting you at all (or any) of the many project meetings. How then do you know that cycling was not considered? You can say “It may be that cycling was not considered”, since you don’t know, and you have not researched the scheme’s development and history.
    You are very wrong to think that cycling was not considered. HOURS and hours of design time were spent trying numerous alternative arrangements for bicycle provision. But in the end, all of the project team supported our conclusion that this complex junction would not work with such provision. You have no idea how tricky it was to achieve the critical dynamic relationship to allow the signal-free intersection to work.
    Incidentally, the numbers of cyclists using the centre of Poynton has increased from 0.02% mode share before the scheme, to close to 2.3% on the last count following completion. Not brilliant, but a big improvement.
    Plenty of data available about the earlier arrangemen’ts, congestion, safety and economic distress. You only have to ask….

    • Thank you for your comment.

      I’m not sure it’s any more comforting to know that inclusive cycling provision was considered, then disregarded – some might say that’s even worse than overlooking it entirely.

      Is the data you mention publicly available?

      Likewise, are the numerous alternative arrangements for bicycle provision that were considered (before being rejected) also available?

      Consider this a request! 🙂

    • Tom says:

      Good to see you here, Ben. I look forward to reading your authoritative responses to the valid points raised on this forum.

      I, too, am particularly interested in understanding what was rejected and why. Such hard-won knowledge may avoid unnecessary misapprehensions and may be invaluable when considering future schemes in other locations.

      So, I second the request for the information you have said you will supply, and look forward to reading it.

  21. rdrf says:

    Could Ben Hamilton-Baillie or Mr Cassini comment on my pints (now some way) above, specifically on the conditions for cyclists away from the junction?

    I mention that hatching or kerbing is actually against what I would see as the principles of shared space, narrows the carriageway and means that cyclists have to adopt primary position with motor vehicles going at a speed which may not be right for some people to take primary.

    Essentially, too much space is taken in the centre of the road and more space could be made available for cyclists at the side – whether a lane, segregated track or just enough space for motors to overtake cyclists easily.

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  26. JayTee says:

    Interesting and well written piece taken from one users perspective. That is key isn’t it? One users perspective. On balance it is a bold scheme and has greatly enhanced the centre of Poynton.

    • Tom G says:

      Not entirely.
      Other users have made similar points [1] .
      Some have collectively stated “it [Poynton] is horrendous” [2].
      A more rigorous appraisal of other shared space schemes states that people felt safer under the original road layout[3], shared space proponents tend to make claims that are not supported by the available evidence [3], and that the more people used it the more they wanted it changed[3].

      [1] Is a nuanced and balanced report from a group of people visiting Poynton for the first time. Surprisingly, given the short time they are there, they witness a low-speed collision. Too many of those and, while the police accident reports will look better, car insurance will become more expensive.

      [2] Blind users, despite repeated attempts by different people on different occasions, collectively declare “it is horrendous”. This mirrors points made by all organisations representing the blind.
      Walthew House Newsletter, issues 8,9,10.

      [3] A very responsible review by disinterested parties (i.e. unlike Hamilton-Baillie and other shared space proponents) makes balanced, restrained, highly critical points about shared space schemes. Read the full report to understand the rationale for points they are making.

      • Hello again, Tom. When I saw the email notification, I thought it was a comment by As Easy As Riding A Bike. Where has that thread gone? Anyway, I’d reply briefly along these lines:

        The “very responsible review by disinterested parties” cited at (3) is co-written by Steve Melia, an anti-car person. The evidence which doubters crave is not forthcoming because most traffic authorities refuse to let us make the changes that would prove our case, viz. that given roads designed for equality and a social context, and culture change to support it, road-users would rediscover their manners and merge in a merry mix. Until the brutal rule of priority is replaced by the sociable rule of equality, it’s understandable that some people use the word “horrendous” to describe their experience, but such epothets are hardly evidence. Anyone with eyes who prefers the original arrangement is ignorant of the life-enhancing potential in Equality Streets and shared space.

        • Tom G says:

          So, you declare your schemes a success (and ignore evidence to the contrary), even though you have never been allowed to “prove your case”. Your statements are mutually contradictory and your position is internally inconsistent.

          I haven’t seen a clearer example of Orwellian NewSpeak and DoubleThink in a long time!

        • Tom G says:

          Your statement about Steve Melia is a classic case of “tackling the player, not the ball”. Very unimpressive.

          Look at the evidence produced in the report, and attempt to refute that. Who cares if one author is pro-car, pro-bike, pro-cats, pro-dogs? I don’t. I do care about the quality of the evidence (unlike, apparently, the shared space proponents that overstate the available evidence).

          • Fair point about tackling the player not the ball, and perhaps you and others could observe it too. But as stated, there is insufficient evidence to judge shared space, because reactionary and self-interested forces guard their regulatory regime with state support. Agents of change are constantly thwarted, not just by traffic authorities by the way, but the media too. (Just saw typo in my previous post – epithet.)

            • Tom G says:

              I’m glad you agree that shared space proponents overstate the evidence (“…there is insufficient evidence to judge shared space…”).

              If there isn’t sufficient evidence, how can you declare them a success without bursting into a fit of the giggles? Enquiring minds want to know.

        • Tom G says:

          Why are you dismissing blind people’s experience of Poynton and elsewhere?

          Are you trying to marginalise them and get them to confine themselves to an institution? Poynton’s features undoubtedly achieve that in a way that conventional road features don’t.

          Your last statement (“anyone with eyes ..”) is a brutal, vicious, unprovoked attack on the disadvantaged, and an attempt to dismiss them as ignorable invalids.
          You should be ashamed of yourself.
          You should display more of the “sociable rule of equality” that you trumpet – or are you revealing your true colours?

          • Here we go again. You are a recidivist pillock, Tom Gardner. As I’ve written elsewhere, if we make roads safe for children – which shared space and Equality Streets would do, given the chance to roll them out properly instead of piecemeal – we make them safe for everyone, especially the vulnerable. The clue is in the name: Equality Streets. Unlike the vicious priority regime which you support, it’s empathetic, inclusive, and disadvantages no-one. Over and out.

            • Tom G says:

              In the context of blind people finding Poynton’s new features “horrendous” you viciously stated (on January 28, 2015 at 10:43 pm) “Anyone with eyes who prefers the original arrangement…”

              In the light of that, I think you meant to write “Unlike the vicious priority regime which you support, it’s empathetic, inclusive, and disadvantages no-one THAT HAS EYES”.

              I’m not sure what you mean by “recidivist pillock”. Is it someone that points out that the king isn’t wearing any clothes? If so, I’d agree.

    • Thanks for your post. “Our drivers are not badly behaved; we just have a road environment that encourages bad behaviour.” You reiterate one of my fundamental points. – Not sure why you feel the need for separate provision for cyclists, although there is informal provision on the wider pavements, roadside. – £4m is not at all expensive for the complete revamp of four roads and two junctions, but please note that a sizeable chunk of the money went on repairs to collpased drains. – The reason for the partial degradation of the surface is that Ben Hamilton-Baillie’s specifications were not followed. The Council is reaping the rewards of its short-sighted cost-cutting.

      • Tom G says:

        That’s disingenuous. The repeated serious road failures are because Hamilton-Baillie specified construction techniques for which “the UK has lost the skills necessary to lay them [setts/blocks] properly”! Source: Hamilton-Baillie himself, see

        Even if the initial construction had been successful, which everybody acknowledges it wasn’t, what would happen when (not if) any of the utilities dig it up again? Their contractor wouldn’t have the specialist knowledge required by Hamilton-Baillie.

        I’ve asked Hamilton-Baillie to clarify what will happen after utilities’ gangs have got at the road, but Hamilton-Baillie has chosen not to respond, let alone answer. OTOH, he has chosen to respond to other subsequent questions, see

        It is worth reading Hamilton-Baillie’s postings in that thread, to see the context and how he has chosen to answer/avoid questions.

  27. johnmmorrison7 says:

    I don’t really want to get involved in a bad-tempered online spat. However, I listened carefully to Martin Cassini debate shared space at a national 20 mph conference about three years ago. I started out as neutral/favourable to shared space but by the end I was convinced that at the very least, the idea is being oversold. Cassini opposes all speed limits or legal restrictions on motorists in the name of equality. This is an extreme libertarian position somewhere to the right of Jeremy Clarkson. It’s the same as advocating a flat income tax rate for all, rich and poor, in the name of equality. Unfortunately equality of treatment, in road safety as in economics, leads to massive inequality of outcomes. There is no ‘equality’ between a motorist, a cyclist and a pedestrian in shared space because the cyclist and the pedestrian are far more vulnerable. The same logic applies to provision for blind and partially sighted people, who require extra protection to give them an equal outcome. This is the logic behind the Equalities Act but the ‘equality streets’ argument returns to an 18th century view of society that has long been discredited except on the far right such as the US Tea Party.
    I still find the idea of shared space attractive in places where traffic volumes and speeds are very low. But I think Transport for London isn’t too keen on using the term. In London some of the shared space philosophy is used constructively to make streets which are better places. Lower Marsh behind Waterloo station is a good example. Across Waterloo Road, The Cut is an example of a street with more traffic than Lower Marsha, but where shared space ideas have clearly been an influence. Traffic speeds are kept low by raised pillows on the carriageway and there is a minimum of zebra crossings. Pedestrians and cyclists seem to share the road safely but only because traffic volumes are low and speeds around 15 mph.
    So I don’t share the outright opposition to the concept, but I am also coming to the conclusion that it has become an ideological dogma. Anarchy is not a recipe for road safety. Trusting motorists to make decisions on what they see rather than obey signs sounds superficially attractive, but the argument is flawed. There are many many factors in road safety that are invisible to the motorist behind the wheel but which planners and designers must consider. One of these is that poor road design tends to make vulnerable users (the blind, the elderly and anyone with mobility problems) just stay at home, where they obviously can’t be seen by motorists. Martin Cassini is I am sure an alert and responsible driver (though others aren’t). But his antenna won’t pick up on children who have been bundled into the car by their parents because poor street design doesn’t allow them to walk safely. Quite often it’s what you can’t see that is important. That’s particularly important when you join up road design with public health.

    • Tom G says:

      I think that is a very perceptive posting – mainly because the trajectory of my thinking was the same as yours. I have come to the same conclusions, somewhat regrettably.

      I have come to the conclusion that it is necessary to explicitly point out their limitations in order to provide some balance to the dogmatic unjustified assertions made by their proponents. If I leave the more outrageous claims unchallenged, then casual readers will tend to believe them uncritically.

      In both public meetings and in small groups I have witnessed people “being swept along” by well-meaning amiable group-think. But when one person has calmly and sensibly pointed out some flaws, other people rapidly woke up and realised that that emperor has no clothes.

      I’m afraid it is unlikely that Mr Cassini will directly and rationally address the points made – he has, as you can see on this thread and elsewhere, a tendency to simply disappear when he realises the audience think his answers are insufficient.

      All in all it is a shame – the good points about shared spaces are being drowned out by extremist nonsense.

    • I tried to format John’s quotes in italics but don’t know how to, so I’m putting them in inverted commas with my replies preceded by a dash –

      “I listened carefully to Martin Cassini debate shared space at a national 20 mph conference about three years ago. I started out as neutral/favourable to shared space but by the end I was convinced that at the very least, the idea is being oversold. Cassini opposes all speed limits or legal restrictions on motorists in the name of equality. This is an extreme libertarian position somewhere to the right of Jeremy Clarkson.”
      – In jest (I hope), Clarkson once expressed impatience with pedestrians, saying they shouldn’t be allowed on the roads. My position is the opposite. It recognises that given re-education, culture change, and above all a change in the basic rule of the road from priority to equality, at long last, a balance of power would be achieved, and the vulnerable would rise to the top of the food chain.

      “Unfortunately equality of treatment, in road safety as in economics, leads to massive inequality of outcomes. There is no ‘equality’ between a motorist, a cyclist and a pedestrian in shared space because the cyclist and the pedestrian are far more vulnerable. The same logic applies to provision for blind and partially sighted people, who require extra protection to give them an equal outcome.”
      – Why do some people find it so hard to think outside the box marked “priority”? It’s true that under the current system there IS no equality among road-users. The reason that some are vulnerable is because the priority-based system, which gives rise to the regulation that puts us at war with each other, makes roads dangerous in the first place. My approach goes beyond your symptoms to the root cause of our man-made problems on the road, problems which you seem to think are insoluble except through more regulation.

      “This is the logic behind the Equalities Act but the ‘equality streets’ argument returns to an 18th century view of society that has long been discredited except on the far right such as the US Tea Party.”
      – Oh dear. What a misrepresentation of the Equality Streets philosophy, which comes down to empathy and sociability.

      “I still find the idea of shared space attractive in places where traffic volumes and speeds are very low.”
      – Poynton is proof that shared space works where volumes are high. Of course it could do with re-education to underpin the design changes.

      “In London some of the shared space philosophy is used constructively to make streets which are better places.”
      – Not just in London. In large part, placemaking is what it’s about: reclaiming roads from the technocrats and making them fit for people.

      “The Cut is an example of a street with more traffic than Lower Marsh, but where shared space ideas have clearly been an influence. Traffic speeds are kept low by raised pillows on the carriageway and there is a minimum of zebra crossings. Pedestrians and cyclists seem to share the road safely but only because traffic volumes are low and speeds around 15 mph.”
      – Not because volumes are low; volumes are lower on Blackfriars Rd just east of The Cut, especially going south, but traffic signals follow hard on each other like viruses, blocking flow, causing added air pollution, denying infinite filtering opportunities and expressions of fellow feeling. At either end of The Cut, day and night, traffic lights cause needless congestion, making drivers stop when they could be filtering on opportunity at low speeds and low revs, interacting sociably with other road-users.

      “So I don’t share the outright opposition to the concept, but I am also coming to the conclusion that it has become an ideological dogma. Anarchy is not a recipe for road safety.”
      – The original meaning of the word anarchy is self-government. Peaceful anarchy or cooperative give-and-take is indeed what breaks out when traffic controls break down. As Portishead shows, self-control is infinitely more efficient and civilised that signal control.

      “Trusting motorists to make decisions on what they see rather than obey signs sounds superficially attractive, but the argument is flawed.”
      – The flaw lies at the heart of the current traffic control system.

      “There are many many factors in road safety that are invisible to the motorist behind the wheel but which planners and designers must consider. One of these is that poor road design tends to make vulnerable users (the blind, the elderly and anyone with mobility problems) just stay at home, where they obviously can’t be seen by motorists. Martin Cassini is I am sure an alert and responsible driver (though others aren’t). But his antenna won’t pick up on children who have been bundled into the car by their parents because poor street design doesn’t allow them to walk safely. Quite often it’s what you can’t see that is important. That’s particularly important when you join up road design with public health.”
      – As Professor John Adams wrote (words to this effect): the reason for the apparent improvement in road accident figures is because roads are so dangerous that old people dare not cross them, and children are not allowed to cross them anymore. The figures are bought at the cost of community severance.

      • Tom G says:

        You wish for streets in which there is no higher/lower priority. Wish no more: they already exist. I am familiar with such streets in Sicily and India. I can assure you that there are two principal consequences:

        (1) there are a large number of accidents. Last time I was in Palermo a numerical majority (i.e. >50%) of the cars had significant dents and scrapes, up to and including missing entire front wings, which makes it very easy to inspect the tyre:)

        (2) The prevailing rule is, quite simply, “MIGHT IS RIGHT”, clearly visible on all the roads all the time. Sorry for shouting, but I don’t want you to ignore that consequence.

        I really really wouldn’t want roads like those in this country – and I doubt you would either. Please be careful what you wish for: you might get it.

        Your position is remarkably similar to Clarkson’s, whether or not you like it. Of course you arrived at that position for different reasons, but that’s not the point.

        • No Tom, might is wrong. That’s the core point of Equality Streets, couched as a negative. Put as a positive, it could be love is right, or love is all you need.

          • Tom G says:

            Everywhere on planet earth, sooner or later not having enforced rules leads to the abhorrent “might is right” behaviour. Visibly. Demonstrably. Unequivocally. It doesn’t matter whether you (or I) wish it was otherwise, that *is* what happens.

            I want to avoid anything that would lead to “might is right” in the UK.
            Why do you advocate policies that would clearly institutionalise “might is right”?

            • Tom, you’re entitled to your jaundiced view of human nature. I suspect you’re a glass fully-empty person, who sees only bad in human nature. You trot out opinion as if it were fact. In the public arena, given a chance (i.e. given equality and freedom from vexatious regulation), social protocol sees to it that we treat each other fairly. Whenever I’ve witnessed lights out of action, I’ve seen snarls turn to smiles. Moreover, our cooperative instincts are supported by survival instinct: my interest in avoiding collision with you mirrors your interest in avoiding collision with me. Perhaps you’d be good enough to put a sock in it now, old chap.

              • pm says:

                Its easier to believe that human beings are all saints and will never give in to the temptations to abuse power, if one’s experience of the world is mostly that of someone in a position of relative power. Nothing to do with glasses full or empty.

              • pm says:

                (As for the idea that someone in a car has an ‘equal interest’ in avoiding a collision with a vulnerable person without an armoured shell to protect them – it simply highlights your refusal to acknowledge reality)

              • Johnmmorrison7 wrote, “Martin Cassini’s website posting ‘Clarkson is not wrong’ on Oct 18 2014 opposes all speed limits on motorists. Clarkson may have been joking, but Cassini isn’t.
                He has not dealt with my argument on the difference between equal treatment and equal outcomes. I am not a social scientist (thank goodness) but I think this distinction is fundamental to any discussion of what constitutes equality. To encourage more equal outcomes in incomes, housing, traffic engineering, health and many other fields, some people have to be given priority.”

                – Here’s another post along similar lines: … Given the reforms I advocate, equality of opportunity will produce equality of “outcomes”. If you think the current system of priority and regulation produces equality of any sort, I doubt the 25,000 killed or hurt on our roads every year, or affected friends, family and colleagues would agree. Within the revolution in driver education that is so scandalously overdue, the onus for safety should be on the mighty, not the vulnerable (I’d legislate to that effect). So in that sense, the vulnerable road-user would have priority, but I think you’d achieve that fairer, safer balance of power through equality, re-education and street redesign.

              • Tom G says:

                (equalitystreets1 posted on January 31, 2015 at 6:01 pm)
                Chris Huhne is an excellent example *against* shared spaces, illustrating the dangers thereof. There are many people like Chris Huhne who simply *won’t* behave appropriately in shared spaces. Do you think Huhne et al think of you as an equal – or as one of the inconsequential “little people”. I know which way I would bet. (And I wouldn’t like to try to share space with him!)

                The Chris Huhne link provided is to a version of the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument beloved of the US gun lobby (simply substitute guns with speed!). The UK and Europe has soundly rejected that proposition as being immoral and from self-interested gun freaks.

                The rest of the post can be summed up as the “The current situation isn’t fair. Something must be done. This is something. This must be done” chain beloved of Sir Humphrey Appelby and his ilk. No impressive.

                Summary: still wishful thinking without any effective counter to the salient points being made.

              • Pm wrote: “Its easier to believe that human beings are all saints and will never give in to the temptations to abuse power, if one’s experience of the world is mostly that of someone in a position of relative power.”
                Not sure why you think I think we’re all saints, or that I’m in a position of power. For the nth time, when we are free of anti-social rules and vexatious regulation, it’s not just social instinct which protects us from harm (by ensuring we approach carefully and take it more or less in turns), but survival instinct – my interest in avoiding YOU mirrors your interest in avoiding ME. It’s nonsense to assume that given a level playing-field, drivers would wilfully mow down a pedestrian or cyclist. It’s the current rules of the road, which are intrinsically dangerous,that set the stage for dangerous conflict. The current driving test, too, is ludicrously and dangerously inadequate.

              • Tom G says:

                equalitysteets1 writes “For the nth time, …”

                You can say it 2N times if you wish – it still won’t be valid. “Proof by repetition” is a know technique for politicians, but it won’t work here!

                equalitysteets1 writes “when we are free of anti-social rules and vexatious regulation, it’s not just social instinct which protects us from harm (by ensuring we approach carefully and take it more or less in turns), but survival instinct”

                That fails in important cases, endangering innocent bystanders: sociopaths don’t have any social instinct, and idiots don’t have survival instinct (the Dunning-Kruger effect is directly relevant).

                How do you propose to ensure sociopaths/idiots don’t cause carnage in shared spaces?

              • Tom G says:

                Yet again you choose to avoid the specific points, and to make vague statements.
                Please explain the behaviour observed in India, Sicily, and elsewhere. Try not to avoid the issue: it make your position look weak and untenable.

                (BTW, you would benefit from watching the news on TV.)

              • pm says:

                Do you leave your front door unlocked and wide open while you are out? Why not? Do you not have faith in people’s benevolent nature? Why not share access to your home, why have a system of priority involving keys and locks?

      • johnmmorrison7 says:

        Martin Cassini’s website posting ‘Clarkson is not wrong’ on Oct 18 2014 opposes all speed limits on motorists. Clarkson may have been joking, but Cassini isn’t.
        He has not dealt with my argument on the difference between equal treatment and equal outcomes. I am not a social scientist (thank goodness) but I think this distinction is fundamental to any discussion of what constitutes equality. To encourage more equal outcomes in incomes, housing, traffic engineering, health and many other fields, some people have to be given priority.

        • Tom G says:

          I hadn’t spotted that Cassini was that extreme! ( ) Not a good advertisement for shared spaces!

          Cassini advocates equality-of-opportunity (rather than equality-of-outcome), which always leads to gross inequality.

          Don’t hold your breath waiting for him to address your point, even though he may respond to it. Shame.

          • +Tom Gardner. It’s not up to me to fill the gaps in your knowledge or repair the blind spots in your intelligence, but in brief: in videos I have seen of uncontrolled junctions in India and Vietnam, the wisdom of crowds prevails and people squeeze through chaotically but successfully. Of course, drivers the world over need to unlearn the bad habits of a lifetime instilled by the current rules of the road. Those rules grant unequal rights and ownership of the road to motorists, who are thus licensed to neglect the vulnerable or “inferior” road-user. On Equality Streets, there would be no such licence. As for your puerile carp about leaving my front door open, you are confusing the private with the public realm. I can’t remember seeing a single constructive comment from you. Time to give it a rest.

            • jopsuk says:

              Martin, the UK has 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people per year on the roads. India has 19.5, Vietnam 24.7. Why on earth would you use such countries as examples of “good practice” in road design and safety?

              • Tom G says:

                Drat; beat me to it! Think of it as yet another example of claimed advantages overstating the available evidence 🙂 (

                Sicily is another good example of what happens when rules are removed (or not enforced). A numerical majority of the cars in Palermo had significant damage, up to and including missing front wings.

              • jopsuk: ‘3.5 deaths per 100,000 people per year on the roads. India has 19.5, Vietnam 24.7. Why on earth would you use such countries as examples of “good practice” in road design and safety’. Thanks for those figures. My remit, if I have one, is the UK, where I’ve been observing the vile current system and trying to introduce ideas of equality with a view to a more equitable, efficient and civilised public realm. I wasn’t meaning to use countries that I’m unfamiliar with as examples of good practice. Of course, when the spanner in the works – priority – was first introduced, there were great numbers of casualties on our roads. Instead of scrapping the rule of priority (which fabricated the threat and licensed the neglect), they introduced traffic lights, i.e. they created an expensive system of regulation which made us stop so we avoided the inconvenience of slowing down. Brilliant! Thus was a parasitic industry born and thus most traffic control an unending exercise in self-defeat. Also see the quote from Prof John Adams which I paraphrased here recently.
                +Tom Gardner. This will have to be my last reply to you. If you read or viewed my stuff, you’d find answers to most if not all of your elementary objections. What about the sociopaths or maniacs, you ask. Why hobble the overwhelming majority of reasonable people with rules devised to catch the hypothetical deviant? Your rules and regs can’t contain the maniacs anyway.

              • Tom G says:

                equalitystreets1 writes “Why hobble the overwhelming majority of reasonable people with rules devised to catch the hypothetical deviant?”

                Because the sociopathic minority exists, and it is the best way of minimising the harm they do to the majority. How would abolishing rules minimise their adverse effects?

                BTW. You now know that countries with fewer (enforced) rules such as India and Vietnam have much higher road death rates. Do you still advocate removing our imperfect rules?

            • pm says:

              “for your puerile carp about leaving my front door open, you are confusing the private with the public realm. I can’t remember seeing a single constructive comment from you. Time to give it a rest.”

              Sounds like the usual libertarian idea that the only form of power that is illegitimate is that of the state. and that which protects the otherwise vulnerable. Every other kind of power is just fine?

              Why is the physical safety of the vulnerable on the roads less important or less worthy of protection than the safety of your private sphere? What happened to your faith in the innate decency of human nature as a form of protection? Why does that not apply when it comes to protecting your property?

              I also note you keep making imperious demands that everyone else shut up (‘put a sock in it’ ‘give it a rest’). Interesting.

              • pm: ‘I note you keep making imperious demands that everyone else shut up (‘put a sock in it’ ‘give it a rest’).’
                Not everyone, just Tom Gardner. His occasional good remarks are overwhelmed by his drip-drip of negative comments which I’ve endured on my YouTube Poynton video. On the other hand, pm, your comments are mostly reasonable, albeit recently personal as a result, possibly, of the bilious tone of some of my replies to Gardner’s sniping.

                “for your puerile carp about leaving my front door open, you are confusing the private with the public realm.”
                pm: ‘Sounds like the usual libertarian idea that the only form of power that is illegitimate is that of the state. and that which protects the otherwise vulnerable. Every other kind of power is just fine?’
                Reply: Not at all. The reason that some road-users are vulnerable is because in 1929, the state made a historic error which persists to this day. Without reference to Parliament or the People, it imposed priority for main roads, granting superior rights to one set of road-users over others, regardless who was there first. At a stroke, it negated common law principles of equal rights and responsibilities, and rendered roads intrinsically dangerous. The entire edifice of traffic control is a vain attempt to mitigate the problem of priority. My aim is to restore common law principles to make roads intrinsically safe.

                pm: ‘Why is the physical safety of the vulnerable on the roads less important or less worthy of protection than the safety of your private sphere? What happened to your faith in the innate decency of human nature as a form of protection? Why does that not apply when it comes to protecting your property?’
                Reply: There is profit in burglary (private realm), but no profit in mowing someone down on the road (public realm). Maybe I’m not expressing it as well as I could, but do you see the point?

              • Tom G says:

                I would be very happy if you would *address* the questions about the negative dysfunctional aspects of shared spaces, and provide rational reasoned *answers*, rather than just responses. For the avoidance of doubt, while all answers are responses, not all responses are answers.

                Clearly I am not alone in finding your responses unduly optimistic and inadequate.

                Additionally, your ad hominem attacks do you no favour, and do not advance the cause of shared spaces. Which is a shame.

            • pm says:

              Can you really be unaware of the horrendous road safety situation in countries like India or Vietnam? That seems a shocking gap in general knowledge for someone in your position.

            • pm says:

              This is a year late, but the thread has revived again, and I didn’t notice this comment last time, so what the heck…

              When you say
              “There is profit in burglary (private realm), but no profit in mowing someone down on the road (public realm).”
              You are mistaken.

              There _is_ profit in taking risks with vulnerable road-users – the payoff is saved time from driving faster (and time is money) and saved effort on concentrating on careful driving that could be spent texting or eating breakfast or just zoning out,

              The profit in _risking_ mowing someone down on the road (which inevitably means occasionally actually doing so) is clearly there – that’s why it happens!

              In fact I think there are other, more subtle, gains there as well, to do with status and emotions. Its the only way I can explain how often one will find, when crossing the road as a pedestrian, an oncoming car _speeds up_. Its in order, I suspect, to establish the pecking order by making you scurry out of its way. It is, I guess, the car/pedestrian version of the infamous ‘punishment pass’.

              • Tom G says:

                pm notes “…Its the only way I can explain how often one will find, when crossing the road as a pedestrian, an oncoming car _speeds up_. Its in order, I suspect, to establish the pecking order by making you scurry out of its way…”

                There’s a variant of that in my village, where after resurfacing (yes!) the council has deliberately omitted the central white line and cats’ eyes. Since then people often don’t realise where they are on the road (especially when passing rows or parked car), so people coming the other way “swerve” *toward* then to wake them up and restore a sensible and safe separation.

                Note that removal of the median white line is the kind of think shared space advocates think is wonderful. In my village it makes drivers *more* *aggressive*. That’s not an effect I would have expected, but several people have independently come to that conclusion.

                I’ve also heard tales of increased minor collisions, of the sort that don’t enter into the police statistics, but do increase insurance premiums.

              • The ignorance that informs current roads policy and is espoused by certain contributors here is remarkable. What unites them is an utter failure to appreciate that rules of the road based on priority pit road-users against each other and amount to a declaration of war. They banish the good in human nature, forbid it from flourishing, generate mutual hatred instead of goodwill. How ironic that the current Roads Minister is Robert Goodwill. It’s lamentable that some commentators here, supposedly well-informed, swallow the official line and help perpetuate a cancerous system which causes untold injustice and harm. I wish they would give it a rest and open their minds to the potential for peace and fraternity given a system based on equality. Merry Christmas

              • Tom G says:

                Is that the equality and good nature shown in this?
                If you think a shared space will make a material change to such behaviour, then can I interest you in buying a bridge at a very reasonable price?

              • In reply to Tom G’s post 22 Dec 12.08 a.m. (re the video of a bus deliberately hitting a cyclist):
                You can’t seriously be suggesting that a monstrous act, perpetrated in the context of vexatious regulation which puts us at war with each other, is evidence against the peaceful revolution that shared space or Equality Streets seeks to bring about?
                Re the bus lay-bys, or lack of, I’m not saying the council scrimped there. Where they cut costs was on the depth and quality of the paviors, so the degradation of the surface cannot be blamed on the shared space design or spec.
                I hope to find time to read the eprints.uwe piece – I’ve stored the link – but it’s worth noting again that the author(s) are anti-car, so their findings or comments may not be entirely objective. Myself, I’m pro road-user, pro-integration and pro-choice.

              • Tom G says:

                If you haven’t read the UWE report after at least a year[1], then you are being deliberately ignorant about the subject that is dear to your heart. Some sections of the church refused to look through telescopes when Galileo said that moons were going around Jupiter.

                Such deliberate ignorance means your opinions about shared spaces are valueless.

                [1] It was probably two years ago that I first pointed you to it, and have done so repeatedly thereafter.

              • Tom, you are so bilious and judgmental, it’s almost breathtaking. I thought the UWE link you posted yesterday was to a new piece, but now I realise it’s yet another repeat of a link to the old piece. The arguments are stale and do not hold water if only you would open your mind to the universal benefits that would flow from comprehensive reform: street design to express equality and a social context; a culture based on equality instead of priority; a driving test to shift perceptions away from car domination to equality – and yes, if anything, pedestrian priority; legal reform to support the shift from war to peace, etc. None of this is utopian. It’s hard to prove in practice, because my proposals for lights-off trials and programmes of re-education, thus far at least, fall on deaf government and local traffic authority ears. Presumably most of them are under the influence of vested interests that seem to have hoodwinked the majority that we need costly regulatory interventions to protect ourselves from each other. No, we need protecting from a system which makes roads dangerous in the first place.

              • Tom G says:

                Of course your contentions “are hard to prove in practice” – because they are wishful fantasies that aren’t grounded in reality. Similarly your “proposals for … programmes of re-education” are vague and cannot be implemented starting from where we are now. Your conspiracy theories (“…under the influence of vested interests…”) mark you out as a crank.

  28. pm says:

    What I find particularly annoying about all this is that the proponents of ‘shared space’ show so much zelous irrationality that it drives one to the opposite corner and to a position of rejecting the entire concept and everything associated with it. When, in reality, not everything about it is without all merit.

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  32. Nathan says:

    Poynton is a mess.

    This has increased traffic and queuing, with wait times for vehicles in rush hour doubling at the very least. And additional queues and wait times when previously there was none (i.e. quiet periods in the middle of the day/weekend).

    This is and always has been a busy through road for HVGs and whilst a new bypass is now being built to try and alleviate this traffic I can’t help but feel it will make things worse as people venture through Poynton from the South to get to this bypass.

    This road is ill thought through, the surface has been built for pedestrians use not vehicles, particularly not HVGs which are collapsing the road constantly. As mentioned in the article roadworks are a real pain in the rear end, this is a stretch of road that has water/electric/gas works done on it pretty much non-stop throughout the year, and the reduction to single lane traffic means we see traffic being shifted onto the other side of the road (where possible) to bypass the road works through means of temporary lights, and this adds to the congestion further.

    But much like the cycling oversight, there’s another oversight that resulted in an awful makeshift solution. Buses. Buses were ignored, where once before we had 2 lanes, we also had lay by bus stops where buses pulled completely off the carriage way to pick up and drop off and not add to congestion. But now we have single lanes with painted on bus stop areas, so when a bus stops, everyone behind it stops.

    Getting rid of these lay bys and having two lanes could still work, as there’s still an additional lane to overtake a stationary bus.

    Sadly, the only lay bys on the road now are parking spaces, the huge stretch of central reservation is just jam packed with lamp posts and just seems a waste of valuable real estate as far as these roads go.

    It’s a mess, and was a waste of tax payers money, and in fact will be a continual waste of tax payer money as its repeatedly dug up and repaired, and there’s no doubt in my mind that when the utilities companies dig the road up they won’t be paying for the laying of block paving, they’ll be asking the tax payer to fund that.

    • Agree that bus lay-bys should have been provided. Couldn’t understand cavalier approach to that. As mentioned elsewhere, the council scrimped on depth of paving, ignoring Ben’s spec, so spared space can’t be blamed for that. As for psychopaths (ref another post), I wonder if there are more on this thread than on the road.

      • Tom G says:

        Do you have evidence as to where Hamilton-Baillie wanted the bus stops, and that the council ignored him and placed them elsewhere without good reason? If you don’t, then your comments are a mere smokescreen.

        It is worth noting that based on your blog posts and comment, you think shared spaces are perfect – and that all the dysfunctional results are nothing to do with shared space.

        • AndyR says:

          Provision of bus-laybys is usually done in consultation with local bus operators. If their drivers have experience, after dropping off and picking up passengers, of not being let out of the lay-by and back into the traffic stream by drivers of other vehicles (obviously a simple failure to make eye-contact) then they usually prefer on-carriageway stops so they stay in the stream.

          • Tom G says:

            Understood, accepted, and that seems reasonable.

            My question was based around Cassini’s assertion “… the council scrimped… ignoring Ben’s spec, so spared space can’t be blamed for that”, plus the well-researched “The authors conclude that some of the claims made on behalf of shared space have overstated the available evidence…” Given the context, that comment really is “pulling the punches”! FFI, see

            The rest of that report is worth reading; its conclusions are never discussed by shared space advocates.

    • Notak says:

      Bus operators and drivers often prefer bus stops to be in the main carriageway as it makes it easier to move off. Drivers often won’t slow down to let a bus out. It’s in everyone’s interest (including drivers) to encourage modal shift away from inefficiently used private cars to other forms of transport and buses are pretty efficient.

  33. Tom G says:

    Are there still problems with the construction? I know they rebuilt is first shortly after it was completed, and had to repeat it a few years later.

    When the utilities fill in their holes, do they restore the fancy/pretty surface, or do they just lay black tarmac? Bristol has black tarmac in the middle of cobbles, and the patchwork quilt looks a real mess.

    To be less negative about the scheme, I don’t think it could reasonably be expected to improve flow, whatever the shared space proponents might claim. OTOH, everything being blocked by a bus at a bus stop is exceptionally poor design!

  34. I cannot believe the ignorance of equalstreets1. Obviously ,this person has never driven, sat in or operated an HGV. THE LORRY IS ON THE KERB BECAUSE IT IS WIDER THAN A 10 YEAR OLD CHILD…..FOOL

    • Mark Williams says:

      Never ascribe to ignorance that which can be explained by beneficial interest. Hanlon’s Razor, almost.

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  37. nick robinson says:

    I think your point re the split in types of cyclist is slightly beside the point. When I go to the shops in my local area (max trip up to 3 miles) I wear jeans and “ordinary” clothing. When I go further I wear lycra etc as I sweat a LOT and also ride faster with a concomitant increase in chafing. All I see in your photo is people choosing their appropriate mode of travel/apparel

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