Shared space: Detroit in 1890

Fort Street in Detroit, 1890The web site publishes some amazing photos.

One recent addition is of Fort Street in Detroit. It’s looking west from Woodward Avenue back in 1890.

Notice what’s missing in the photo besides cars and trucks? There are no signs or traffic lights or crosswalks.

At this time, there really were no rules of the road because they weren’t necessary. Road users operated at similar, slower, and safer speeds. Everyone was responsible for not crashing into others.

This type of road design is becoming more popular in Europe. It’s called shared space.

After a recent MDOT training with John LaPlante, I asked him about implementing shared space. He said it can work in America in some residential areas or downtowns. He brought up the excellent point that European drivers have a culture of sharing the road with other users like pedestrians and bicyclists. That makes it much easier for them to successfully implement shared spaces. Too often American drivers suffer from a sense of road entitlement.

Did you notice all the bikes parked in front of the now-demolished Hammond Building? This was the “Golden Age” of bicycling in Detroit.

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