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How shared spaces are transforming Auckland’s CBD

Tuesday 20 Nov 2012 2:15 p.m.

Fort Lane before and after it was made into a shared space

See the photo gallery

By Imogen Crispe

Auckland is on its way to becoming a people-city rather than a car-city as more shared spaces are unveiled.

Since last year at least five new shared spaces have opened, two more are set to be completed this week, and there are plans for more streets to become shared in the future as the Auckland Council realises how successful the current spaces are becoming.

Auckland Council’s environmental strategy and policy manager Ludo Campbell-Reid says shared spaces are part of his vision for the city centre to move away from being so car-oriented.

“We want to shift the balance of power from a city designed for private vehicles to a city designed for people.”

He says people are what make a city area prosperous, not cars, and shared spaces have proved popular in overseas cities such as Copenhagen, Brighton and London.

“People spend money, people shop. People activate cities, not the private cars.

“What attracts people [to an area] is people […] the joy and theatre of public life.”

Shared spaces are areas where there is no delineation between footpath and road and pedestrians have the right-of-way.

But Mr Campbell-Reid says he is not anti-cars, and for that reason chose to create shared spaces over pedestrian-only areas.

So far public feedback from the projects has been positive. A report on the Fort Street, Fort Lane and Jean Batten Place shared spaces published in September found 91 percent of users and stakeholders were pleased with the changes and 75 percent of property owners thought it was beneficial to be located near a shared space.

It also found a 400 percent increase in hospitality spend in the area.

The general public also seemed to like the changes, with 80 percent finding the area attractive and the same number feeling safer in the area – significant since in 2008 Fort Lane was named the “most dangerous spot for random street violence” by Metro Magazine.

“The city is changing and people are starting to fall back in love,” Mr Campbell-Reid says.

It was also found that car numbers and speeds in the area have decreased since the shared spaces opened. Auckland Council says so far there have been no accidents on any of the shared spaces.

Now other areas of the city are asking the council for shared spaces, such as New Lynn and Newmarket.

But shared spaces are not appropriate everywhere, Mr Campbell-Reid says.

“It’s got to be a place that has innate attraction in itself.

He says the only disadvantage to shared spaces is for blind people, as it is hard for them to tell where it is safe to walk. However the council has come up with a way to solve the problem - by installing differently textured ground material so they can feel where it is safe to go.

Plans for Federal Street to become a shared space are currently open for public consultation and are being supported by SkyCity.

The council wants the street to become “an intimate, high quality pedestrian-focused route […] with a distinct mix of retail, cafes, restaurants and entertainment venues”.

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