A poll held by the Institute of Advanced Motorists has found that the majority of people think that drivers should be held legally responsible for accidents between vehicles and vulnerable road users in pedestrian-priority zones.
The more sophisticated of these types of zones are the Woonerf, a concept that originates from the Netherlands. They are designed without pavements to be used at walking pace to encourage cycling and walking.
The concept behind the Woonerf is that they have no pavements, and that pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists have equal use of the same road space.
Just under half of the 4,000 respondents to the road safety charities poll think the Woonerf concept is a good idea for use in the UK, although 27% said the idea was a bad one.
36% of respondents think the zones should primarily be sited in shopping areas, or other similar areas with high pedestrian traffic. A further 33% believed that they would be better utilised in residential areas where a need has been established for them.
16% of people believe that they should be used on all residential roads.
More than half the respondents believed that the biggest benefit of the system was the removal of street clutter including kerbs, signs and railings.
Improved pedestrian and cyclist safety were also popular, with 49% and 43% respectively. Only 25% of respondents believed there would be no benefits at all.
Opinion on whether the respondents themselves would want to live in such a zone was evenly split, at 39% each.
IAM director of policy and research Neil Greig said: “Our poll reveals a surprisingly positive attitude towards better protection of cyclists and pedestrians, both in road layout and legal responsibility.
“On the continent, attractive street design is used to make it clear where pedestrians have priority but this approach is in its infancy in the UK.
“The IAM supports any move to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists, but research is needed into the best way to inform drivers about changes in legal responsibility, and also on the effect a Woonerf might have on the road sense of children brought up in such a zone, when later exposed to less protected areas.”
By Ben Malkin
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