Shared public spaces

I read something a few weeks ago about a consultation in a city centre around shared spaces for disabled people.

It got me thinking. Well, obviously since I’m writing this. But in a kind of, nagging at the back of my mind won’t go away kind of thinking. That kind of thinking. So I’ve lost the source and I can’t cite. But I can still muse.

Why are consultations always single issue? By which I mean, in this particular case, where is it written that only disabled people have needs that require them to be consulted on ‘shared space’? As if no other city centre user group has requirements or a vested interest.

Public consultations are silo’d and I don’t understand why. Well I can hazard a guess – ease of data collection. And here we come to the crux of the issue I have.

Data collection should never drive a consultation. What you want to know should. So in this case, what was the actual issue?

That this city centre had been identified as being unfriendly to a particular user group. But actually that sentence could stop at unfriendly. If it’s unfriendly to disabled people, I’m going to guess it’s unfriendly to a few easily associated groups – families with young children and the elderly.

Jump on my segue for a second.

Center Parcs does one thing absolutely fantastically that nowhere else I’ve ever been does and it would be really easy to say traffic. It is, after all, the one thing that jumps into everyone’s minds about CP. But that’s falling headfirst into the vat of grain again.

What it actually does is user centric design. Traffic management is part of that. Infrastructure is also a huge part of that. But so is shared values and desires. The inherent embedding of access into every part of the Parcs from the swimming pools to the restaurants and accommodation. Even the spa.

But it’s the little things, the unobtrusive little things which are where the magic happens. Always ramp alternatives to steps. Disabled toilets away from main toilets so no one gets tempted to queue jump. Mobility scooter charging points. Buggy bays. Microwaves to heat up your baby food for free. Pathways that even though the Parc is mostly traffic free during your stay are separated from cycle traffic by barriers.

I could go on and on. I’m not elderly or a parent but I notice these things. Why? Because their absence when I leave the Center Parc bubble suddenly becomes really obvious and I wonder.

Why. Why it is that if we can’t find a money pot to modify city and town centres for disabled people, we don’t just accept that the modifications would also probably benefit other user groups too and merge them together to find more money pots to do the work that’s needed.

Because it is needed. Internet shopping is killing city and town centre business for a reason. Our pounds are being spent online, not just because it’s cheaper. Ask ASOS. Look at their clothing prices. Look at their business model.


The simple fact is, it’s just easier and less hassle to order online – even with the inherent charge the courier issues embedded in that. So something needs to change. It feels like access could be a really big part of that.

After all, it doesn’t seem to be harming Center Parcs.

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