There's a new vogue for the concept of Shared Space, apparently pioneered by the late Hans Monderman of the Netherlands. The idea derives from the much earlier Dutch experiments with Woonerven (literally living yards, but now known as Home Zones in the UK). Instead of trying to segregate different road users by physical (footways, cycleways) and temporal (traffic lights) means the Shared Space concept throws them together in an anarchic way and lets them all "negotiate" their conflicting ways by "eye contact".
It works surprisingly well, we are told, at least in the Netherlands. The lack of road markings, signs and priorities means everyone is in doubt about how to proceed through the Shared Space, so they do so slowly and tentatively, looking other road users in the eye to establish that fundamental human contact which at least acknowledges the other person's existence, and by extension their equally valid claim on the space being competed for. Because the approach requires a lot of the clutter of road signage to be removed, public spaces are left looking better.
But a word of caution. The UK is not the Netherlands. We do not have their tradition of respect for cycling or their familiarity with the concepts of sharing space. The attitude of many motorists is that they pay for the roads and they have prior rights over walkers and cyclists, who they see as freeloaders. That attitude is bolstered by continued references to Road Tax instead of Vehicle Excise Duty, even though Road Tax as something specifically raised to pay for roads was abandoned well over 80 years ago and only lasted for 16 years anyway!
In any case, Shared Space is hardly a new concept. Apart from the partial segregation of walkers using pavements (footways), the public highway has always been a Shared Space in principle. The roundabout is an example of Shared Space which is far more common in the UK than elsewhere in Europe or North America, but in most cases they are perceived as hostile to cyclists and walkers. For decades in the UK the pressure has been towards more segregation, often at the request of walkers and particularly cyclists, who look enviously at the extensive networks of segregated cycleways in the Netherlands.
So let's not assume that Shared Space is a panacea for our traffic problems. Without a fundamental change in attitudes on the part of all road users it will simply allow motorists more scope for using their inherent might to assert priority over walkers and cyclists, exactly as has happened over the last century. Not only do motorists need to understand that they have no greater right to road space than anyone else, but walkers and cyclists need to be encouraged to be more aware and assertive of their rights. Perhaps only giving walkers and cyclists prior rights over motorists will restore some kind of balance.