Remove signs, traffic lights, lane markings and other obstacles from a busy roundabout, with the right of way applying as the basic rule; give all groups of traffic participants equal rights and responsibilities; and make them pay attention.

Thus, over a three-month period in 2011, Austria’s second-largest city turned its central Sonnenfelsplatz into a shared space, an urban design concept to create a balance between traffic and the social life, culture and history of the space in question, and thus to improve quality of life.

The focus of shared space is on restructuring public space. Clear-cut divisions are removed, accessibility enhanced, and resting and seating facilities invite people to linger instead of rushing. Traffic, on the other hand, is being de-regulated. It is assumed that people respond better to suggestions than to prohibitions, and by creating intentional uncertainty, shared space forces road users to make situation-specific decisions, for example by establishing eye-contact with other road users. This results in increased attention, more appropriate speeds and more social behaviour.

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