Project Report

Adelaide suburb adopts ‘shared space’

The Adelaide suburb of Hallett Cove has converted one of its roads into a 'shared space' - a road that gives equal priority to pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles.

The Adelaide suburb of Hallett Cove has converted one of its roads into a 'shared space' - a road that gives equal priority to pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. The idea of a ‘shared space’ for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles alike has long been established in the Netherlands.

A ‘Woonerf’ is a Dutch concept originating in the 1970s where equal priority is given to each type of road user. Woonerven are designed as a single pavement without curves, footpaths, road markings or signage. The street is seen as a social space, as all users must be aware of each other on the road.

The use of the Woonerf design methodology has expanded beyond its Dutch roots and it can be found in various forms in Germany, the United Kingdom and even some parts of the United States. Here in Australia, Bendigo, Victoria has adopted this concept of a ‘shared space’ for Hargreaves Mall in the city’s CBD. However, the rest of Australia has yet to adapt this ‘shared space’ idea to any significant scale.

Ragamuffin Drive, Hallett Cove, was completed and open to the public in April this year. It has already garnered praise from the industry. GHD and the City of Marion received the Excellence in Road Safety Engineering award at the 2015 Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA) South Australia Excellence Awards early this year. “It’s a really suburban environment, and that adds to the uniqueness of it all,” says Chris Dunn, GHD Manager, Transportation and Civil Engineering in Adelaide.

The City of Marion, the local government authority in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, has been investigating the potential for a ‘shared space’ in its district since 2013. It picked Hallett Cove, a suburb nearly 30 kilometres from Adelaide’s city centre, as the location to implement the methodology. Ragamuffin Drive, a road connecting the Hallett Cove Shopping Centre and the newly built Hallett Cove Library and Community Centre was subsequently chosen.

“It’s an ideal testing space, especially when you have a community centre and pedestrians crossing the road,” says Mr. Dunn. He explains that councils want more community engagement in these areas. “They expect a hive of activity.” The area surrounding Ragamuffin Drive includes two churches and the shopping centre. The addition of the Hallett Cove Library and Community Centre to Ragamuffin Drive helped the council in its decision on where to create this ‘shared space’ for the community.

The City of Marion contracted GHD for the project, and the design process began in 2013.“It took a long time to eventuate because it was a first,” says Mr. Dunn. As the concept was new to South Australia, it was important to satisfy the strict safety requirements of the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI).

Through collaboration between the project managers Thinc Projects; architects Hassell; and the local community, GHD and the City of Marion worked corroboratively with DPTI to develop the design to ensure safety was not compromised.

Mr. Dunn says the design for Ragamuffin Drive drew inspiration from Bendigo’s ‘shared space’ and its European equivalents.

The road is built using three pavement treatments: asphalt, concrete and pavers. This range of road materials varies the texture of the street and the colour too. This gives it a visible point of difference to a traditional road.

The street alignments differentiate it from a normal road, as does the absence of traditional streetscape such as kerbs, gutters and road signs. Small disc-shaped markers embedded in the pavement identify 90-degree parking spaces, and help quash similarity with a conventional road.

“It’s an unfamiliar kind of road system,” says Mr. Dunn. “Drivers aren’t used to unmarked streets and are likely to automatically slow down.” Ragamuffin Drive starts at a T intersection and gradually transitions from a 50-kilometre-per-hour zone to a 20-kilometre-per-hour design speed as it runs past the Community Centre. “It’s like a car park type of environment.”

Mr. Dunn explains that ‘shared spaces’ such as Ragamuffin Drive come at higher costs and longer construction times. However, it’s a sustainable design that enhances the area and opens the space up for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles to share safely.

Sensitive urban design and landscaping ensure Ragamuffin Drive benefits the surrounding environment. Surface water, for instance, is redirected to surrounding bio-retention zones to remove contaminants and sedimentation from stormwater runoff. This water then feeds the surrounding soil and vegetation.

Mr. Dunn says that community feedback on the completed project, and the full benefits of Ragamuffin Drive’s ‘shared space’, will be shown in a review of the behaviours of users, undertaken in six months’ time after the Community Centre opens in early August. “It needs to be looked at really closely. DPTI wants a really comprehensive review of it,” he says.

“We are hoping that this project will be an example for other councils.” Mr. Dunn explains that the ‘shared space’ can be adopted for both city and suburbia. He asserts that suburban areas truly reap the benefits as it creates a low-speed environment for those accessing community resources such as a library.

“It’s not ideal in all roads, but it is something I’d like to see rolled out across Australia because it makes the area more of a place than a road.”

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