Sunday, 18 March 2018

Five Simple Things We Can Do for Walking

Here are five simple things which we can do to make walking easier and accessible for all. Doing it right does not cost any more than designing and implementing poorly.

In many cases, doing something right is actually cheaper than doing something wrong and so my message is to pause, think and get it right first time.

Why take a perfectly good path and block it with barriers? Staggered barriers, K-barriers and kissing gates might in theory stop mopeds and scramblers, but they will completely prevent access for many and provide a poor level of service for everyone else. The anti-social use of powered two-wheelers is an enforcement issue and in any case, they will just be lifted over the top of barriers. If car access is an issue, then carefully designed bollards with 1.5m clear space will deal with the problem, but make sure bollards are positioned carefully to maximise unobstructed clear space.

Pedestrian Guard Rail
It is there to control pedestrians, saving them from themselves, especially where a road layout for maximum motor capacity cannot accommodate the desire lines of people moving under their own power. If we provided for pedestrians and their desire lines properly, then guard rail wouldn't be needed. However, we are stuck with lots of it, but it doesn't have to be this way. Anywhere it has been provided to stop parking or footway over-run is a failure for pedestrians as the solution will be a combination of enforcement, parking controls and community engagement with the odd bollard as a last resort. In places where safety is perceived as an issue, then a structured audit approach will give confidence where it can be removed.

Dropped Kerbs
If we are laying dropped kerbs for pedestrians, then please make sure they are laid flush. The kerbs are flush to assist people using wheelchairs and mobility scooters, people pushing buggies and prams; and people with other mobility impairments. It costs the same to lay a kerb correctly as it does incorrectly and can make all the difference. A flat-topped road hump can be better as pedestrians don't need to contend with ramps and at side roads, continuous footways are even better (although perhaps not as simple as a dropped kerb). Don't forget tactile paving is needed, laid correctly with blisters and cut properly to prevent those silly little pieces popping out and causing a trip.

Vehicle crossings
Where vehicles need to cross a footway, we can provide a vehicle crossing. We need to remember that it is the vehicles which have the engines and so we shouldn't be dropping the footway down to meet the road. It is hard work to keep going down and up ramps and steep crossfalls can tip people from wheelchairs and mobility scooters. By keeping as much as the footway longfall and crossfall constant, the very front can be ramped for the vehicle. Where the footway is narrow, then quadrant kerbs can be used to maximise the footway for people walking. We can (and should) go further as this type of design approach can be equally applied to junctions where a continuous footway can be provided across the side road. Paved in a different material to the carriageway, a continuous footway will have a good level of visual priority, showing drivers that they are the visitors.

Clutter Buster
Many of the traffic signs out there are provided to manage and regulate motorised traffic and invariably get stuck on posts in the footway creating obstacles for those walking. The key here is that everything in the street has to earn its place and that includes traffic signs. Perhaps a street audit could be undertaken to check what should really be there and then put a plan into place remove what shouldn't. If a sign gets hit, the first question the maintenance team should be asking is if needs to go back. If signs are really needed, then can they go on lighting columns or be attached to walls (especially parking signs). A little thought here can go a long way.

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