There is a high degree of confusion over what a continuous footway actually is, with the lack of standardised designs having “real-world effects” for vulnerable road users, warns a study by the charity Living Streets.
Most infrastructure currently being called a ‘continuous footway’, or which attempts to continue the footway over the end of wider side roads, does not successfully prioritise pedestrians over vehicles, says the report.
“To some extent we could see that designers and organisations representing disabled people might share overall objectives, while being divided into two different camps, with a lack of connection or knowledge-sharing being a significant problem,” the report observes. “It was evident that there is a real risk that opposition to more radical change, from those who are – not unreasonably – afraid that their needs are being ignored, may help entrench the status quo of traffic dominance and low pedestrian priority. This can make good quality changes less likely.”
The rise in the number of locations where the distinction between footway and carriageway is blurred poses a problem for blind and partially sighted people, the report says. “This has the potential to increase fear, not only at these locations but much more widely – as the sense that footways are (relatively) safe spaces is eroded.”
The lack of tactile paving, to warn of a kerb-free transition into a space which drivers may be treating as part of the carriageway, is a problem with many of the designs that are currently being called continuous footways in Britain, the report notes.
At most continuous footways in Britain the ramps used, if any, provide much less of a constraint on speeds than those used as standard at Dutch ‘exit constructions’. “The height of the ramp is as important as its gradient, but there is little mention of ramp height in literature discussing continuous footway design.”
At continuous footways simultaneous two-way vehicle movement creates significant additional challenges and risks to pedestrians, according to Living Streets’ research.
An effective way to offer safety, comfort and convenience for pedestrians is to make more narrow the space available for driving over the footway, the report suggests. In contrast to arrangements seen in other countries, this arrangement is largely absent in the UK.
The report found that traffic volumes and vehicle speeds on the carriageways approaching a continuous footway – on both the main road and the side road – mean they are unlikely to prioritise pedestrians.
Another issue is the increasing use of non-standard tactile paving arrangements, installed as part of efforts to provide continuous footways but differing from site to site. This, says the report, is likely to create confusing conditions for blind and partially sighted pedestrians.
Most attempts to use continuous footways in Britain are compromised by a wish to accommodate high levels of vehicle use and traffic flow, the report says.
There is no nationally agreed set of design principles or programme for reforming streets being effectively implemented in a way that points
to a future in which pedestrians are prioritised, the report concludes.
“‘Real’ continuous footways (as exit constructions) are long-established and very common feature on Dutch streets, but not elsewhere, with these used as an integral part of a national programme reforming how streets work.”
Inclusive design at continuous footways http://tinyurl.com/4becunr6
The report's findings will be discussed at Building Better: Crossings & Junctions in London on 13 March https://www.landorlinks.uk/ building-better-crossings-and- junctions
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