What if We Got Rid of the Streetlights?

"Shared streets" guru Ben Hamilton-Baillie has shown in the U.K. that there are a lot of better ways to manage traffic than stoplights. CNU asked Ben, as he prepares to come to the United States, if shared streets could work here.

May 3, 2014, 11:00 AM PDT

By Tim Halbur


Stoplight and lights

hxdbzxy / Shutterstock

"I am convinced that the principle of shared space and low-speed, civilised streets could be beneficially applied in North America," said Hamilton-Baillie in the interview. "Although the urban form, scale and context is often very different – and often particularly challenging! – human psychology is the same everywhere. And it is working with the grain of human behaviour and interaction which lies at the heart of shared space."

The Town of Ponyton, UK is one of Hamilton-Baillie's success stories. A video about the town's transformation can be seen here. The video shows the importance of paving materials and other subtle cues that slow traffic and make it possible to combine people, bikes and traffic safely. 

"Just as in architecture, paving materials help convey values, priorities and purpose," says Hamilton-Baillie. "Recent street design has often been limited to a very limited palette of asphalt or concrete. Whilst these are excellent materials, we often use a much wider range of paving materials such as blocks, setts or cobbles, materials that can respond to the buildings or surroundings, and which can influence behaviour through our visual, auditory and tactile senses. Blocks often suggest lower speeds, and can be useful to contrast with more linear elements of streets. But we also use surface applications, paints, bonded gravel – anything that helps tell a rich story."

Ben Hamilton-Baillie will be sharing his experience with shared streets on June 6th at CNU 22 in Buffalo, New York.

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