Design Details 2
A quality checklist for continuous footway
Continuous footway can be used to significantly prioritise and protect those on foot and bicycles, people with less skill in negotiating moving traffic, and people with a wide range of disabilities. But continuous footway only does these things if it’s well designed. Poor quality continuous footway can create an environment which can be really difficult for many of these same people.
I support the opposition of various people, and most obviously groups representing those with a visual impairment, to some of the designs currently being introduced in the UK.
I’ve often been asked about how continuous footway should be designed, and I’ve grown tired of the continual re-inventing of the wheel that I can see – when the Netherlands has been refining these designs for decades to make sure they work well for everyone. Therefore this article proposes a draft quality checklist for ‘continuous footway’ designs. It is aimed at a UK audience, but might apply in many other countries where continuous footway is being introduced. It’s intended for designers and technicians, and to prompt discussion among experts, and (if I’ve got it right) to act as a reference.
The articles “I want my street to be like this…” and “Design Details 1” offer a much better introduction to continuous footway than you’ll find here. Unless you already care about the design of continuous footway you are likely to find this particular quality checklist as dry and boring as any other quality checklist – although you may find the images after the checklist to be helpful guides to what good/failing designs look like.
I’m inviting comments and criticism of the checklist, and I may update it in response. An exercise like this probably needs to be collaborative. I recommend that readers check for the comments of others at the end of the article (there are already a good number of comments and queries worth reading).
As the checklist necessarily has lots of words, with the accompanying images coming later in the article. So to keep things interesting, and as a taster, these three example designs meet the checklist conditions…
…and these four designs fail the checklist conditions.
Disclaimer & checklist status:
It would be negligent for anyone to implement a design on the basis of this article without undertaking a full, independent, and competent assessment of the safety of that design. This article presents my layman’s understanding of what makes for good (safe) continuous footway, based on my personal observations of Dutch designs in place within the Netherlands (and Danish designs in Copenhagen). It is not based on any qualification or position I have, or on reference to any agreed set of standards. I have no direct evidence that using these designs in the UK will be safe. With the introduction of any novel design it is also essential that the performance of the design is assessed in terms of safety, and in other respects, after it is installed, and that the design is rectified or removed if it fails at that stage.
CONTINUOUS FOOTWAY QUALITY CHECKLIST
Version 1.2 – January 2020
A – fundamentals
‘Continuous footway’ is a term used to describe situations where the footway1 of a major street2 continues alongside the major street, across the entrance to a minor street2 or other minor access. This [DRAFT] checklist defines [proposes] minimum conditions for the introduction of continuous footway designs in the UK.
- Anything which looks or feels like a footway to people walking3 on it should be designed so that it is very clear, to people in vehicles, that it is a section of footway and not a section of carriageway, even if people are allowed to drive over this footway. The safety and proper functioning of ‘continuous footway’ depends on this clarity.
- The safety and proper functioning of ‘continuous footway’ requires physical constraints to bring vehicle speeds to a walking pace. There must be short distinct ramps4 at either side of the footway that force anyone driving any normal motor vehicle to slow to a walking pace when driving up onto the footway. A wider set of design features must also be in place in order to control the speed of any vehicles not suitably slowed by such ramps.
- The safety and proper functioning of the ‘continuous footway’ must be created by the overall physical design, with minimal reliance on any accompanying road markings, signs, or laws.
- The footway design, the street design, and traffic conditions experienced near the footway, must allow people driving to see the footway and understand how to deal with it safely and appropriately and with sufficient time to react.
- The safety and proper functioning of ‘continuous footway’, on the basis of the points above, must not be undermined by too great a volume of vehicle movement over the footway, or by queues of vehicles waiting on the footway (meaning that it must be used only in situations where traffic is, or will be, limited).
- Only one direction of motor vehicle usage across the footway must be possible at a given time, either through ‘one-way’ regulation, or by physical restrictions to the width of space available.5
- The design must also meet the further ‘design conditions’ in section B, and if the major street includes a cycle track also the ‘cycle track conditions’ described in section C.
- Continuous footway should only be used where it will also mark a transition, for people driving, from a more major carriageway to a more minor carriageway (or access) where the physical design of the streets (or access) create lower speeds than on the more major carriageway.
1 ‘Footway’ is used here as a more technical and specific term for what is usually called ‘the pavement’ in the UK
2 ‘Major’ and ‘minor’ here are intended to refer to the relative status of the two streets involved, not their level of classification in the wider road network
3 ‘Walking’ is used as a general term to keep the language in the checklist simple, and it should be assumed to also be referring to others appropriately using a footway, such as people using a wheelchair, mobility scooter, and children on balance bikes.
4 The ramps may be omitted at a very minor access which is rarely used, such as to a private driveway for parking one vehicle, provided vehicle speeds are equally restrained by other physical features.
5 In other words, if two way traffic is allowed the entrance should be so narrow that someone driving a vehicle into the minor street must wait for any vehicle being driven out of it to fully exit (or vice versa) – so pedestrians are not at risk from vehicles moving in both directions at the same time.
B – design conditions
The fundamental points A1-A7 above are likely to require a design which complies with the detailed design conditions below:
- Other than at the ramps (which facilitate vehicle access between carriageway and footway), it must be completely clear which sections of the design are footway, and which are carriageway.
- The footway must be visually distinct from the carriageway.
- The appearance of the footway, and specifically its overall colour and texture, must not substantially change at or near the place it crosses the minor road.
- The line defined by the kerb at the edge of the major road, and the access ramp to the footway, should be aligned, so that the ramp continues the kerb line without any significant bends or inset into the footway area.
- Any linear road markings, or other linear design features, which follow the edge of the major road, should continue substantially unchanged across the end of the minor road (this includes the design of any on-street cycle lane).
- The surface of the footway should be flat and level (in relation to the wider street incline and crossfall rather than in an absolute sense – so any overall incline matches that of the surrounding infrastructure)
- The ramps must provide a gain in height of at least 100mm, within 800mm or less [NB: this is a DRAFT condition which has values which are based on guesswork and Dutch standards, and these would need to be checked against UK vehicle designs – I particularly want comments on these values].
- If parked vehicles will be present on the major road then the ramp allowing access to the footway from the major road, and the kerbs immediately on either side of this ramp, should be in parallel to the line defined by the outside of these parked vehicles (see annotated images later).
- There must be no road markings on the footway, nor the ramps. If for safety (or to avoid damage to vehicles) it is the case that a given design will require road markings in order to instruct people how to behave or to highlight the existence of the ramps, then it is not a good design, or it is a design which is being used in an inappropriate location, or a design which requires appropriate changes to the wider environment so that this is no longer the case.
- Any signage directed at those considering entering or leaving the minor road should be close to the ramp between the footway and the beginning of the carriageway of the minor road (rather than in the general footway area or close to the ramp to the major road).
- There must be physical features to prevent parking on the minor street at a location which is too close to the footway, where it would obscure the view from a vehicle (approaching along the minor street) of people on the footway.
C – cycle track conditions
Where a cycle track6 runs in parallel to the footway beside the major road, conditions A1 to A6 are unlikely to be met unless the design also complies with the detailed design conditions below:
- At the continuous footway the cycle track must run within the area between the ramps (in the same way that the footway is between the ramps – and rather than it being between the ramp and the carriageway of the major street)7
- The cycle track must be visually distinct from both footway and carriageway.
- The cycle track must be continuous (i.e. must not stop and start on either side of the continuous footway feature).
- The appearance of the cycle track, and specifically its overall colour and texture, must not substantially change at or near the place it crosses the line of the minor street.
- The cycle track must continue in a line which is generally parallel to the direction of the major road. Any bending of the track toward or away from the major carriageway should be gentle enough to avoid undermining the visual impression that it continues with this generally parallel line.
- Any markings, signs, or other design features on or associated with the cycle track, must not undermine the visual continuity of the footway, and must not imply priority for those driving across the track. If for safety (or to avoid damage to vehicles) it is the case that a given design will require such road markings, then the overall design it is not a good design, or it is a design which is being used in an inappropriate location, or without appropriate changes to the wider environment.
- The cycle track must be separated from the footway by an appropriate kerb of at least 50mm height, which (at the continuous footway) has an angled surface so as to allow slow speed access to and from the cycle track by bicycle from the major or minor road or access.
6 For the purposes of this checklist a cycle track is an area provided for cycling alongside the carriageway which is physically divided from the carriageway.
7 Take note that conditions B5 and C1 have consequences for the design of cycle lanes protected by ‘light segregation’ features (i.e. where the cycle lane is structurally part of the carriageway rather than being offset from it). These conditions taken together would generally prevent the provision of such a lane where there would be a gap in the light segregation at the continuous footway. The gap in the light segregation features (necessary to allow vehicles to cross the lane) risks creating the appearance of a road end, thus undermining the safety of users of the footway.
Images of good designs
These three designs comply with the checklist.
D1: Footway, with parking on major street
Take note of the following: It is clear that the footway is footway. There is no ambiguity in this design. The one-way side street’s carriageway is very narrow, restricting speed. The ramp beside the major street’s carriageway sits in a line which is parallel to the outside edge of the parked vehicles, and both ramps are very short, steep, and distinct. There is no break in the double yellow line, and nothing curving inward from this which might suggest a road end. The footway is not the same colour as the carriageway. There are no road markings on the footway or ramps.
D2: Footway and cycle track, with parking on major street
This is fundamentally the same design as D1, but there is a cycle track. Take note that the cycle track is unbroken, has no changes in its path which would undermine the visual continuity of the footway or suggest a road end, and that it is visually distinct from the footway and carriageway.
D3: Footway and cycle track, without parking on major street
This design shows the situation where no parking takes place on the major street. This design passes the checklist conditions, but may be problematic when used for a side road entrance because the drivers of vehicles turning into the side road from the nearest lane cannot easily see people approaching from behind. Design D3b may improve matters.
D3b – D3 design but with additional minor bending of the cycle track
This design is similar to D3 but with some minor bending of the cycle track, aiming to increase separation from the carriageway. This design passes the checklist conditions provided this bending is not so great as to imply a road end (condition C5).
Additional images from the above models are provided at the foot of the article.
The following four designs fail against the checklist.
D4: Footway is too insignificant
This design fails condition A1 because the continuous footway is much too narrow, meaning that it is visually much less significant (fails condition B2) in comparison to the overall visual presence of the carriageway of the minor road.
There is also a failure to significantly narrow the carriageway of the minor street well before it reaches the footway, allowing a parked vehicle to obscure the view that someone driving out of the minor street should have of people on the footway (condition B11).
D5: Confused visual signals
This design fails condition A1 and B1 (it is not clear whether this is footway or carriageway or a hybrid ‘shared space’). This results partly from it failing conditions B3 (lack of visual continuity due to significant surface changes), B5 (yellow lines mark the carriageway junction rather than continuing unbroken), and B9 (road markings on what might otherwise be understood as footway).
The effect of adding road markings to try to make the design safe is that the most important message, which is “here is a footway” is buried under multiple competing messages, many of which imply that this is a section of carriageway.
It also fails condition A6, because it allows simultaneous two way traffic, significantly increasing the risks to those cycling and walking.
D6: Confused visual signals, missing ramps
This design fails condition A1 and B1 (it is not clear whether this is footway or carriageway or a hybrid space which is a bit of both). These failures arise primarily as a result of the design failing condition B3 (lack of visual continuity due to significant surface changes). The break in the visual continuity of the cycle track (conditions C3 and C4) significantly increases the impression that this is a section of carriageway (despite the white markings). The lack of visual continuity of the footway is significant, despite the fact that the change in surface material is further from the minor street than in design D5. This makes a larger area look like it may be for driving on, and significantly undermines any message that it is a section of the footway.
The lack of the ramps is a very major failing (condition A2), very significantly increasing risks to those walking and cycling because people can now drive onto this space at speed.
As above, this design also fails condition A6, because it allows simultaneous two way traffic, significantly increasing the risks to those cycling and walking.
D7: Raised table creating shared space
This design fails condition A1 because the addition of the raised table on the carriageway means it is not clear what is footway and what is carriageway (also conditions B1, B2, B9, C2, C3, C4, C6).
It fails condition A2, because ramps to the area are too distant from the space where people walk (rather than being alongside the footway), and are not steep or sharp or distinct enough (also condition B7), therefore not slowing traffic sufficiently.
It also fails other conditions (A6, B4, B5, C3, C7).
Adding a raised table to the carriageway generally is not compatible with the creation of a continuous footway, however there may be other very different situations where raised tables are appropriate at a junction – for example, in quiet residential streets (see article ‘I want my street to be like this…‘ ).
In reading the checklist the following should be understood:
‘Continuous footway’ is a relatively new term which arises from the need to add new infrastructure in existing locations. It is not normally used to describe existing locations where footway can be driven over to reach a residential private driveway or minor access, but in design terms there is no clear division between ‘continuous footway’ at a street junction and the design of footway at this kind of minor access. Thus the checklist is intended to apply to both situations. There are many existing examples of footway design at private accesses which create poor conditions for footway users. Good quality footway designs at these locations would comply with the conditions in this checklist.
One purpose of this checklist is to highlight that hybrid designs, with only some features of continuous footway, are undesirable, and that they may be unsafe. This checklist is written in such a way that it specifies that if any users of the footway, including those with visual or cognitive impairments, or the very young, are likely to interpret a design as a continuation of the footway then this checklist should be applied – or the design should be changed so this is no longer the case.
The checklist is not intended to outlaw other different methods of prioritising the movement of people walking or cycling across a side road – provided they do not give the impression to footway users (including users of any associated cycle lane, track, or path) that the footway (or cycle infrastructure) continues unbroken.
Other level ‘side road entry treatments’
The checklist raises difficult questions about those “side road entry treatments” which create a surface level with the footway, but with no pretence that they continue the footway. Here’s an example from London.
This is clearly NOT a continuous footway. It is what tends to be called a side road entry treatment. There is little doubt (for most users) that this is a section of carriageway.
I’m not personally sure that this is a good thing to do – I don’t know whether it’s a good design or not – but I do know that this is not a continuous footway design.
I’ve explained where I think the line is which divides ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ continuous footway designs – in the top condition in the checklist (A1):
“Anything which looks or feels like a footway to people walking3 on it should be designed so that it is very clear, to people in vehicles, that it is a section of footway and not a section of carriageway, even if people are allowed to drive over this footway.”
I would apply 3 tests to a side road entry treatment design like this:
- Do the wide spread of ordinary users of the footway interpret this as footway, or recognise it as carriageway?
- Do people with visual impairments interpret this as footway, or recognise it as carriageway?
- Do children of 5 years old interpret this as footway, or recognise it as carriageway?
If people driving are going to interpret this as carriageway (which seems quite likely – but perhaps should be checked) then it is essential that all of the above footway users recognise it as carriageway. If they do, that’s fine – it’s a side road entry treatment which may or may not achieve anything, but which isn’t covered by my proposed checklist. If any or all of the above people interpret this as footway, then in my view the job needs to be done properly – making it proper continuous footway and ensuring it passes this checklist.
Why do we need this checklist?
It is my belief that the only safe way to introduce continuous footway designs in a UK environment, is to ensure that they are of high quality. In places where the use of continuous footway is common, and people are familiar with them, then more compromised designs might still be safe. But in the UK the use of continuous footway is very rare.
To my mind what this means is that we should carefully copy the proven designs used elsewhere, with the Netherlands being the obvious choice. And we should take note of what a good quality Dutch design would look like, and of why it looks that way.
Let’s put it like this: if, instead, we were introducing zebra crossings into a country which had never used them, we’d want a very high quality version of a zebra crossing. We’d look to a country where zebra crossings are standard. We’d create a really good copy of one of their really good zebra crossings. We’d want whiter paint, more obvious stripes, brighter lights, a narrower stretch of carriageway, and so on. I’ve heard it argued that the UK isn’t ready for proper Dutch continuous footway, and that ambiguity makes things safer. But it would be ridiculous to argue that – in a country unused to zebra crossings – the safest designs would be ones which were ambiguous. It’s just as ridiculous to make that argument about continuous footway.
These are additional images – from different angles – of the designs already shown above.
D1 (good): Footway, with parking on major street
D2 (good): Footway and cycle track, with parking on major street
D3 (good): Footway and cycle track, without parking on major street
D3b (good): As D3 but with minor bend in cycle track
D4 (failure): Footway is too insignificant
D5 (failure): Confused visual signals
D6 (failure): Confused visual signals, missing ramps
D7 (failure): Raised table creates shared space
Checklist change log:
Version 1.0 – new, October 2019
Version 1.1 – minor change to wording of condition A7 for clarity, January 2020
- I want my street to be like this (detailed discussion of Dutch residential local access streets – the areas which are behind the gateway created by continuous footway)
- Design details 1 (a longer explanation of what makes continuous footway work, what it is used for, and a detailed explanation of why ambiguity in this kind of design is a mistake). INCLUDES STREETVIEW LINKS to examples of continuous footway designs used in the UK, and examples from the Netherlands.
- Who is liable from Ranty Highwayman might provide some thoughts about liability when pursuing novel designs, not least because he uses continuous footway as an example.
- Scroll below for comments.
Please read on below as there are some substantial comments, adding important ideas and information, including from ‘Hanneke28’ who provides useful details about the Dutch situation, direct from the Netherlands.
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