We recently read this article on thisbigcity.net that discussed the concept of shared streets, where pedestrians and vehicles are placed on the same surface without any delineation between sidewalk and street. Ostensibly, the theory behind this movement is that streets are safer by making them more risky. The article lists a few factors that contribute to this idea. By making streets shared, it encouraged more people to be closer to cars, which caused vehicles to drive slower and yield more often to pedestrians. The goal accomplished by this was to reduce the dominance automobiles had on the street. Of course there are issues to this concept. Do people feel comfortable walking next to cars along the road? The author also points out issues with those with disabilities, especially those who are blind, who tended to favor separation between pedestrian and vehicle.
This concept of shared streets is already utilized in some form in downtown Indianapolis, IN. The first example is Monument Circle where there are no lights, stop signs, yield signs, or lane definitions of any kind. Pedestrians cross the brick street to visit the monument and back on all 360 degrees of the circle and yet there are hardly any pedestrian/vehicle accidents.
Another example, the newly designed Georgia Street also features a curbless median where people share the same spaces that cars use to travel. Whether this concept of shared streets is an effective solution for all streets or should be reserved for key streets within cities, it is another tool for urban designers and planners to consider. Check out the article here: http://thisbigcity.net/are-streets-more-walkable-pavements-removed/