Naked streets? Bad idea …

They were discussing on Vanessa Feltz’s afternoon show the news that the Dutch “naked street” experiment is to be copied in London, appropriately enough in Exhibition Road, in west London. A naked street is a street without markings, where pedestrians and motor vehicles mingle. There’s no pedestrian crossings, or even kerbs: people just have to walk in the road. Presumably people also park their cars on the side of the roads as well. Because pedestrians can walk anywhere, car drivers just have to slow down and look where they’re going. The speed limit is reduced (20 mph) and it’s been reported from the Netherlands that the accident rate has been drastically reduced - if I heard it correctly, to zero, in more than a year.

Nobody’s suggesting that this scheme be made universal, but even so I think it’s a bad idea. It’s nice to be able to walk in the road and not be shoved into a narrow pavement, but getting rid of a place reserved for pedestrians raises the question of “what about blind people?”. How are they supposed to navigate a wide space, where there could be cars, bikes or cars anywhere? Much the same goes for otherwise disabled or infirm people. And people in wheelchairs are much less visible.

As there is no pavement, and people park at the edge, people are then going to walk between the moving vehicles and the parked ones, and when someone wants to move in to make way for a fast-moving emergency vehicle, they will go right across the place normally used by pedestrians. If the pedestrians walk along the edge, they will have to dodge around parked cars - and vans. With all the visibility problems that brings.

Come on, let’s not have too much of this Dutch experiment. It might be safe in some roads (which don’t have much traffic), but nowhere else.

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