Placemaking in Fryslân: the Shared Space Study Tour

Kids on bikes and a car mix comfortably in this Shared Space in Fryslân. Photo by Mobycon.
Kids on bikes and a car mix comfortably in this Shared Space in Fryslân. Photo by Mobycon.

In the mid-1990s, Dutch traffic engineer Hans Monderman took a long, hard look at the question of road safety. He concluded speed bumps, signs and traffic lights were not making roads safer, but he had an idea about what might: collective responsibility. Still, how do you take an abstract concept such as this one and design it into streets?

Monderman began by arguing for fewer traffic control devices and laws in urban areas and a more democratic design process involving citizens. This approach allowed Monderman to retrofit streets into true public spaces emphasising local character. Essentially, Monderman was the traffic engineer who broke the mold as a proponent of what we now call placemaking.

Cyclists and cars mingle in a Shared Space
This Shared Space was formerly a congested thoroughfare. Since the redesign, cafes with outdoor seating have opened onto the space. Photo by Mobycon.

Sadly, Monderman passed away in 2008, but his Shared Spaces – as he called the design approach – can be seen all over the Province of Fryslân where he lived and worked. This is why we are so excited about the location of this year’s Winter Cycling Congress and the involvement of the NHL Hogeschool and affiliated Shared Space Knowledge Centre, where Monderman’s work is continued. For an example, check out the video below.

More Shared Space

There is much more to be said about Shared Space. For a great overview, check out this blog post by Dick van Veen a Dutch architect and engineer with consulting and research company, Mobycon. The best way to understand Shared Space, however, is to experience it in first-hand. Delegates of the Winter Cycling Congress will have that opportunity on Friday, 13 February when Mobycon Consultants and Researchers from the Knowledge Centre Shared Space will lead a Shared Space Study Tour. Participants will learn about Fryslân’s Shared Spaces and see how they are used by all types of road users, all year-round. Registration is available on the congress registration page.

About the guides

Dick van Veen of Mobycon has more than 10 years of experience retrofitting streets, developing Shared Space projects and designing bike facilities and parking. In addition to his work as a designer, Dick has visited North America on numerous occasions, designing complete streets and new bikeways and sharing his experience through teaching workshops on bike facility design and placemaking to planners and traffic engineers.

Sjoerd Nota studied traffic engineering and urban planning (both BSc.) and worked as a traffic engineer & urban planner. In this role he was involved in several Shared Space projects in the Municipalities of Drachten and Sneek. Currently, Sjoerd is lecturer on traffic engineering and urban planning at NHL University of Applied Sciences and a consultant and researcher at the Knowledge Center Shared Space at NHL University of Applied Sciences. He is co-responsible for the development and implementation of Shared Space projects in the Netherlands. He also is involved in evaluation and research projects – for instance conflict-observation and research on quality of public spaces – writes articles about public space and visits national and international conferences as speaker.

For a sneak peek at the Shared Spaces of Fryslân, check out the photos below.

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