Shared Space in Assen

The Kerkplein Shared Space in Assen is the first Shared Space I ever experienced, and it was not a pleasant experience. I didn't realise it was Shared Space until I was told this a few days later. Having just cycled along a poor, but tolerable cycle lane, I found myself trying to turn right in the middle of a scrum of cars at a junction where there were no signs or white lines to give me or anyone else some idea of who was likely to start moving. It was an awful experience, even though it is a tiny junction.

Over the next few days I traversed this junction several times during rush hour, and every time I found it hostile and unpleasant, the complete antithesis of what cycling in the Netherlands is mostly like. During my entire stay there it was the only time I found myself looking at a driver through their windscreen, holding up my hand, and shouting "Stop!" to someone who was just about to drive over me (I was in the middle of the junction behind a car that was going very slowly in the same direction as me). Is that really what Shared Space aficionados have in mind when they say Shared Space encourages people to make eye contact and negotiate?

I was there in the Netherlands to study cycle infrastructure design with David Hembrow, who has written his own article about the junction, one that goes into far more detail than I ever could (he lives in Assen). If you don't have the time to read the article, you may prefer David's short video below: