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Last Updated: Wednesday December 10 2008 18:22 GMT

Maddy checks out roads without crossings!

Maddy at a traffic lights

A town in Kent's taken away road signs, traffic lights and crossings in the town centre!

The people behind the idea reckon it's actually making the place safer. But there've been lots of complaints since it was introduced in Ashford a month ago.

Now one politician's told Newsround they could end up changing things back again. Maddy's been investigating...


"The area that's been changed does certainly look different to most high streets I've been to around the country.

Traffic lights
There's no raised pavement, just one new, smooth, wide road.

Cars, bikes and walkers are all allowed in the same places - or Shared Spaces as they are now called!

The streets look very neat and smart. But they do seem a bit weird without any traffic lights, road signs or zebra crossings. The speed limit has been cut to 20mph.

The idea behind the new scheme is that because things look different, people will pay more attention.

shared space sign
Drivers and walkers are supposed to make eye contact with one another to signal whether or not it is safe to cross the road.

The people behind the idea say it's just an extension of the Stop, Look and Listen message we're always taught about.

It's been going for about a month now and there have been complaints.

Charities reckon the new system is too difficult for blind people.

Some kids in the town told us they've spotted a few near-misses where cars almost crashed into people.

Even Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has spoken out.

Jeremy Clarkson
He wrote in a newspaper that he is worried someone could end up getting killed.

I was on the road for about three hours, watching cars and pedestrians.

Lots of vehicles did seem to slow down and I could see some drivers looking people in the eye and going slowly.

But when I crossed the road to go and buy a cup of tea, one car came towards me very quickly.

Even though I was looking at the driver very closely, he didn't slow down.

Maddy crosses the road
I had walk really fast to make sure he didn't hit me. It was quite difficult because I was holding part of our camera kit at the time!

Politicians in the town insist they are watching very closely to make sure the new system is working.

Next week there will be an official safety check, where people who work for the town's council will look at all the comments people have made about the Shared Spaces.

They will also have another meeting in the New Year.

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Maddy finds out about Shared Spaces

If there is evidence that the roads have become more dangerous they will re-think the way the road is designed, and might even change it back to a normal street!


But they are hoping that won't have to happen!

Most people are pleased that the politicians are being honest and making sure the system is safe.

But we heard some kids complaining, because the new roads took ages to build and cost loads of money.

So they won't be impressed if the scheme is unsuccessful.

Safety

Other parts of the country are watching what's going on in Kent very closely.

If Ashford decides the scheme has made roads safer, then your town might even decide to copy the idea!

For now though - make sure you cross the road carefully, wherever you live!"

Maddy