Shared space is a broad term for a street design concept whereby all street users, including motor-vehicles, share a space without physical or delineated separation. For example, curbs or painted lines are removed.
Shared Space is an appropriate design on streets with low traffic volume and low speeds. When shared spaces are done poorly, such as introduced on streets without actively reducing motor vehicle traffic volumes through traffic diversion or reducing speeds with traffic calming measures, vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians are endangered, particularly those with disabilities.
Cycle Toronto supports initiatives that make streets increasingly more attractive and safer for vulnerable street users who do not travel by car and urges the City of Toronto to limit shared spaces to streets where it is possible to achieve both aims of low speeds and low car traffic volumes. For streets with high volumes or high speeds physical separation is needed to properly protect cyclists and pedestrians.
Furthermore, we urge the City of Toronto to adopt a scale that classifies streets by average daily traffic volume and by average motor vehicle speeds so that decisions can be made on whether a shared space design can be considered or if physical separation is more appropriate.
In order to understand how this could work in practice, consider a few examples. John Street is a popular cycling route that connects the Beverley Street bike lanes with the Richmond-Adelaide cycle tracks. John Street might qualify for “shared space” treatment, but would require diversions to reduce traffic volumes. However, a major arterial like Yonge Street would not be appropriate as a “shared space” without significant operational changes. While we're supportive of such changes, the impacts on adjacent north south streets makes it politically challenging. The only remaining alternative is to provide physical protection for cyclists given that it is a cycling route as identified in the 2016 Cycling Network Plan.
Sidewalks will be widened in the new vision for John St. However, without reducing motor vehicle volumes, the narrowed travel lanes will look like this, as demonstrated during the John St pedestrian pilot. This shared space approach will make cycling less safe and enjoyable.