I now know why I had trouble getting comfortable driving in certain areas of Europe. It was the concept of “shared space”. I always felt that I wasn’t sure if I could drive in certain spaces. Was it a bike path? Was it a sidewalk? What kind of road is this? Well it turns out it was “shared space”. Here is a link and a generic explanation (because most of you won’t click the link).
Basically it is the concept that traffic of all kinds shares the travel space in an urban area. Very few signs, curbs, or defined space for specific traffic types. The theory is that if a car or bicycle has a defined space “just for them” they feel that they own that space and can pretty much ignore the rest of the world…at everyone elses peril. If you get rid of the curbs and signs you create a shared ownership and you get what I call the grocery store effect. Everyone navigates around each other politely with nods and “you go ahead” gestures. This sounds great to me, but it does have its problems, especially in American culture. First problem is with the insurance companies. If there are no signs or the rules are loose like this, who do you blame when there is an accident? I think this would drive them nuts. Second is the feeling that I described. A feeling of not knowing what the rules are. This might just be the years of traffic rules drummed into me, but it is disconcerting.
Anyhow…take a look. Keep an open mind. Wonder why traffic fascinates Jon so much.
Here is one of the photos of the concept from the link above. The guy sitting in the chair is there for the effect of explaining.