In England, the Village of Poynton has implemented a bold transformation of its centre, Fountains Place, which is located at the crossing of three major routes, London Road (A523), Chester Road (A5149) and Park Lane. Nearly 26,000 cars pass through the large intersection in the heart of the village every day. This traffic and the design of the intersection had a significant negative impact on the community. As Hamilton-Baillie Associates write in the Poynton Town Centre Study:
Pedestrian activity on Fountains Place is constrained by the layout of the junction and intrusive impacts of the large volumes of traffic. Street activity is limited to the functional, with pedestrians moving around the margins of the space and opportunities for pedestrians to move through and across the junction compromised by the limited crossing facilities. The church is particularly isolated by the lack of crossings from Park Lane.
In order to revitalize the centre, Hamilton-Baillie proposed an innovative solution, a shared space. The result:
As can be seen, the intersection was entirely transformed. The traffic lights were removed, the sidewalks widened, the curbs were taken out, and public space was reclaimed in front of the church. As can be seen the new intersection looks better, but does it work better?
So far the consensus seems to be that the intersection is safer. Traffic moves just as well, or maybe even a little better than it did before. But above all, there is more vitality and energy in the centre of the village. Its has become a meeting place instead of merely a place to pass through.
To see an excellent overview of the project and its results I recommend watching the following 15 minute video produced by Hamilton-Baillie. As one commentator in the video observes, people are not crossing with their heads down or focused on waiting for a green light. Instead “Most people crossing the road will wave (to the driver). That goes on to feed all these other small gestures of kindess and consideration.”