Our streets should be for everyone - providing safe and attractive places to travel, rest, play and spend time. They need to work for all of us, whatever our age, ability, gender, race or income.
The ability to access, and use the public realm—to do things as basic as using shops and meeting up with people outside your home—is vitally important to people’s ability to be, and to feel, active members of society
Continuous footways (or pavements) are designed to help us walk safely and easily alongside a main road, without having to stop to check for vehicles turning in to, or out of, side roads.
What is a continuous footway?
It's where the pavement of a major road continues across the entrance to a side street. This is the same principle as vehicles crossing the pavement to access private property.
Are they good for pedestrians?
If properly designed they can play a useful part in making our streets more pedestrian-friendly. We can see examples that work well outside the UK (e.g. in the Netherlands).
But when poorly designed, they can make crossing junctions difficult or dangerous for people who are less able to communicate visually. For example, a blind pedestrian cannot exchange visual cues with a driver who wants to cross the footway.
Beyond design, pedestrians must have priority and know that vehicles will give way.
What makes a good design for a continuous footway?
A good design will make it absolutely clear to drivers that they are entering a pedestrian space (the footway), and that pedestrians have priority. For example, this means having no change in colour or texture of the footway as it crosses the junction. The question for urban designers is how the presence of a continuous footway can be communicated to blind and partially sighted people.
The design of a continuous footway must force vehicles to slow down to a walking speed of 4mph. This ensures that even if there is a collision, there is a minimal risk of pedestrians being injured. This can be achieved by creating tight corners at the junction and installing steep ramps. Ideally, only one vehicle should be able to crossover at a time.
This is essential because pedestrians will continue to believe they are on a pavement, even at places where vehicles can cross.
A bus stop bypass or floating bus stop is where a bike track passes between a bus stop and the pavement.
Are they good for pedestrians?
Some issues need to be addressed to ensure this is the case.
The aim of bus stop bypasses is to keep people cycling separate from other vehicles on the road, including buses as they are pulling into a bus stop. This is to protect cyclists and to create cycling conditions most people would consider safe for day to day journeys.
The trouble is that this brings people walking and cycling, travelling at different speeds, into contact with one another. While most people can see what is happening and negotiate that interaction safely, not every pedestrian can.
For example, wheelchair users may have difficulty crossing the cycle lane or reduced visibility when the space is crowded. Blind and partially sighted pedestrians may avoid using bus stop bypasses because they cannot see or hear bicycles approaching or are not confident that cyclists will stop.
What does good design look like?
This is still an emerging area of research, but it’s clear to us that pedestrians must have priority at bus stop bypasses.
We need plenty of space to wait for buses and get on and off safely, with step-free access across the cycle track. Pedestrians need to be seen by the cyclists, and to feel confident of their safety.
Blind or partially sighted people should know they are walking into a cycling track, because of features such as kerbs that make this clear. They should feel confident that cyclists will stop. Sighted people need to be able to see cyclists approaching.
Bus stop bypasses should help cyclists feel relaxed without pressure over their own safety. They should be able to keep going at a sensible speed when there's no bus or waiting pedestrians, and to be able to see others easily so they can stop if they need to.
Cut the clutter
Street clutter like poorly placed bins and defunct phone boxes can clog up our pavements and make it hazardous for people to get around.
Sign up for our walking summit
Our National Walking Summit will look at how we can create truly inclusive streets for all and how we ensure marginalised voices are brought into transport planning and design.
Join us in person or online in March 2022.