Shared zones aim to eliminate the segregation of road users, to an even further extent than a neighbourhood greenway, as pedestrians also share the roadway and, as such, no formal footpaths are required. Unlike shared paths, which are just for pedestrians and cyclists, shared zones include motor vehicles as well. This approach is popular in Europe and is becoming more common in New Zealand.
The concept relies on the removal of typical street elements including line-markings, signage and kerbs, with the addition of extra street furniture such as seats, cycle parking and landscaping. This results in an intentional level of ambiguity so that drivers proceed with caution and at slow speeds. Shared zones often do not provide any specific provision for moving cyclists, as the low vehicle speeds make it easy for them to interact with other users.
In shared zones, the needs and comfort of pedestrians are paramount. People cycling and driving in shared zones are expected to act like guests, traveling in a way that is consistent with a walking pace, and are legally required to give way to pedestrians.
A shared zone is defined in the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 as ‘a length of roadway intended to be used by pedestrians and vehicles’. The interaction between different road users in a shared zone is controlled as follows:
‘A driver of a vehicle entering or proceeding along or through a shared zone must give way to a pedestrian who is in the shared zone.
The definition of shared zone might be seen to apply to a range of situations where pedestrians and vehicles share an area, for example an off-street car park without specific footpaths or where a vehicle crossing intersects a footpath. However, to be classed as a ‘shared zone’ an official designation is required. A traffic bylaw can include resolutions to specifically designate a space as a shared zone. If the space includes one-way traffic flow the bylaw can include an allowance for cyclists to travel in both directions. A bylaw can also specify that parking is prohibited by default in such shared zones.
Shared spaces can be divided into a ‘trafficable zone’, an ‘accessible zone’ and an ‘activity zone’.
The ‘trafficable zone’ is the space where motor vehicles are encouraged to travel; this is achieved through the strategic placement of street furniture and landscaping. The ‘accessible zone’ is a clear space for walking; a tactile paver edge will define this zone for visually impaired pedestrians. The ‘activity zone’, located between the trafficable and accessible zones, is where the street light poles, seats, rubbish bins and landscaping will be contained. Cyclists and pedestrians can use any of the zones.
A New Zealand Shared Space Guidance note(external link)(Joyce 2012) for the design of shared space was developed as an initiative by the IPENZ Transportation Group. The note concluded that “In general it is considered that cyclists should be considered in the design of streets involving shared space principles in the same way in which they are considered in all streetscape designs. Connectivity to the surrounding cycling network should be considered as well as on street facilities such as cycle parking”.
Austroads does not have any guidance documents specifically relating to shared space but it does make reference to shared spaces throughout the Guide to Traffic Management series.
Generally if a shared space is defined, then it should be signed using the ‘shared zone’ sign A40-7 (Rule Code). Detailed specification on this sign can be found within the Transport Agency’s traffic sign specifications website . Generally shared spaces that are used and designed appropriately will negate the need for any additional signs and markings. However where there are parking or speed limit restrictions these will need to be signed in addition to the ‘Shared Zone’ A40-7.
It is important to consider cycle parking provision in a shared space. The activity zone is the most appropriate location as it will not be within the trafficable zone or the accessible zone.