Ever since I encountered a heated debate between pedestrians and cyclists in Brent about who gets the right to use one of the enormous local parks, I've been shocked at how antagonistic people in the capital can be about 'their' space. Apparently, things are not the same the world over: it's possible for cyclists and pedestrians to share designated areas without either of them forming a lobby (/militant/geurrilla) group to ward each other off.
This interesting blog shows a scheme in Holland where cyclists and pedestrians share a pedestrianised shopping area (i.e. free of motorised transport) with the onus on cyclists to give way to pedestrians (who are, of course, comparitively more vulnerable, travelling at slower speeds, with infants, etc.). Sounds like common sense to me. Even better, its a scheme that demonstrably lowers car use, which is, in the end, in the interest of the pedestrians. As the author explains:
"If it were not possible to park your bike immediately outside the shops, and if bikes had to be placed in the same underground car-park as cars, then this would make the car much more competitive in terms of time. Perhaps it could even be quicker than cycling if you were lucky at the traffic lights.
"This is why in order for pedestrianization not to favour the car over the bike, it has to accommodate cyclists very well. That's exactly what we see here. The sign shows that it's a pedestrian area, but underneath it says 'cycling allowed'. A nice simple message, and an essential one. Take away easy access by cyclists and you actually create a car-oriented pedestrianized area which promotes driving over cycling. I've seen that before."
Food for thought - and a point worth raising next time you hear a pedestrian condemning cyclists. When the alternative is a 4 x 4 getting in the way of the shopping, people on foot should be careful what they wish for.