Designing for different types of pedestrians

The Department for Transport’s Cycling Manual – Cycling Infrastructure Design [pdf], or LTN 2/08 – contains this ‘classification’ of different categories of cyclists –

1.3.8 The different categories of cyclist include:

• fast commuter – confident in most on ­road situations and will use a route with significant traffic volumes if it is more direct than a quieter route;

• utility cyclist – may seek some segregation at busy junctions and on links carrying high­ speed traffic;

• inexperienced and/or leisure cyclist – may be willing to sacrifice directness, in terms of both distance and time, for a route with less traffic and more places to stop and rest;

• child – may require segregated, direct largely off­ road routes from residential areas to schools, even where an on ­road solution is available. Design needs to take account of personal security issues. Child cyclists should be anticipated in all residential areas and on most leisure cycling routes; and

• users of specialised equipment – includes users of trailers, trailer­cycles, tandems and tricycles, as well as disabled people using hand­cranked machines. This group requires wide facilities free of sharp bends and an absence of pinch­points or any other features that force cyclists to dismount. Cycle tracks and lanes where adult cyclists frequently accompany young children should be sufficiently wide to allow for cycling two abreast. This enables adults to ride alongside children when necessary.

Perversely this classification is not used to inform the design of cycle infrastructure that is suitable for all these groups to use; instead it is used to recommend designing different kinds of cycling infrastructure for these different types of cyclists. The most telling quote being

In order to accommodate the sometimes conflicting needs of various user types and functions, it may be necessary to create dual networks offering different levels of provision, with one network offering greater segregation from motor traffic at the expense of directness and/or priority.

It is assumed here that cyclists who don’t like cycling amongst vehicles are quite happy to make their journeys longer and more inconvenient as a consequence. Presumably only those people who don’t want to use the road network, as is, are those ‘inexperienced’ or ‘leisure cyclists’, content to wobble around bus stops, dismount at every major junction, and give way at every side road. It’s a disastrous and wrongheaded assumption. As Joe Dunckley has written 

The effect of the “dual networks” principle in LTN 2/08 is that neither “network” is satisfactorily designed. The low-traffic “network” can be designed down: it can concede priority, take circuitous routes, share busy pedestrian spaces, and even advise dismounting — yes, LTN 2/08 says elsewhere that those solutions are undesirable, but, hey, this is just the training network, they’ll soon graduate onto the road so what does it matter? And when it then comes to fixing the main roads and busy junctions, engineers will “take into account the type(s) of cyclist expected to use it”, conclude that the inexperienced and nervous cyclists will be usingthe other “network”, and design the roads and junctions accordingly.

I had been meaning, for some time, to parody the attitudes exhibited in this guidance by making an analogy with pedestrians. How we might ‘take into account’ the different kinds of pedestrians, and how they need different kinds of infrastructure. A silly commentary on how ‘joggers’ might be confident about using the street environment as is, while children and the disabled might be less confident and require segregation.

But it turns out that the DfT are actually beyond parody.

3.4.2 The design pedestrian types are:

  • Commuter – prefers a fast direct route between home and work or when accessing public transport, regardless of quality of environment;
  • Shopper/leisure walker – looks for ease of access, attractive retail environments, and attractive routes;
  • Disabled person – requires level, clearly defined easy access and careful attention in the design and placement of street furniture, including resting points. Satisfying these requirements will also satisfy the needs of all other users, especially older people, people with heavy shopping/young children, and people with temporary impairments or low levels of fitness; and
  • Child – requires a high level of segregation from motorised traffic and/or other measures to reduce the dominance of motor vehicles, such as speed reduction, together with good passive surveillance from other users. These are important factors where children and young people make independent journeys, especially journeys to school.

I haven’t made this up – it’s from LTN 1/04, Policy, Planning and Design for Walking and Cycling [pdf]. The ‘cyclist classification’ in LTN 2/08 is lifted straight from this document.

Amazingly there’s even a ‘Hierarchy of Provision’ for pedestrians, which is deliciously bonkers –

Consider first

Traffic reduction

Speed reduction

Reallocation of road space to pedestrians

Provision of direct at-grade crossings

Improved pedestrian routes on existing desire lines

Consider last

New pedestrian alignment or grade separation

That is, an approach to designing for pedestrians that is just as hopeless as the one for cyclists; one that fails to designate what a particular road or street is for, and to then apply an appropriate treatment for those cyclists and walkers that will be using it. Namely, a treatment that will satisfy the needs of all types of cyclists and walkers simultaneously.

Now of course it is sensible to take into account the fact that there are different types of walkers and cyclists; but something has quite obviously got lost in translation between the initial classification of types of users, and the kind of provision that is then recommended. We wouldn’t design pavements that fast walkers wouldn’t want to use because they’re littered with obstacles; nor would we compromise on the way pavements are designed for children, or for those in wheelchairs, or parents those with pushchairs, because they’re not confident enough to walk or wheel in the road.

Why should we settle for these fudged compromises when it comes to cycle infrastructure?

Thanks to Sally Hinchcliffe for spotting this

This entry was posted in Department for Transport, Infrastructure, Transport policy, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Designing for different types of pedestrians

  1. disgruntled says:

    The question to ask here is _what_ conflicting needs? All the design guidance says is that different types of cyclists are willing to put up with different sub-optimal conditions. There aren’t any cyclists going ‘well, I like that route but it’s too direct’ or ‘I prefer to ride with more HGVs’. AS the same document said, given a direct, high quality, traffic free route, ALL cyclists will opt to use it. The ‘conflict’ only arises when it’s been decided that any provision for cyclists won’t seriously inconvenience cars – and then there is a conflict between which kind of second best we’re willing to accept: direct but mixing with traffic vs. traffic free but going round the houses.

    • Department of Transport By Car says:

      You’re right, DfT is confusing ‘need’ with ‘tolerate’.

      All the people need is to reach their destination.* Does DfT consider this? It seems they’re providing:
      -dangerous but shorter routes on busy streets
      -circuitous, slow routes which make the trip take longer

      So if you’re not brave enough to mingle with traffic, but don’t have the time or the trip just becomes too long and onerous due to the detour, take the car? Is that really the master plan for cycling, DfT? The cycling will be booming soon!

      *) I’m ignoring leisure cyclists and walkers as they’re not going anywhere, just out to enjoy the scenic paths and the exercise, right?

  2. Ian Miller says:

    The most surreal bit of all is section 3.3. This claims there is a “hierarchy of users” and “This places pedestrians at the top, followed by cyclists then public transport, with unaccompanied private car-users last.”

    Now it would be wonderful if that was actually true. Does anyone, including the authors of the document, actually believe that that is true?

    • Paul M says:

      Believe, perhaps not. Wish, perhaps yes, in a few cases. Some inner Lodnon boroughs (Camden, for example) have espoused the road-user hierarchy, of pedestrians, cyclists, buses, commercial vehicles, taxis, motorcycles, private cars (I think that is about the right order) in their Local Implementation Plans (London equivalent of the Local Transport Plan). Others, such as the City, and Westminster, have specifically rejected a hierarchy, saying that “all road users are equal” (I kid you not).

      In a sense it is curious that the City takes this line – it has a resident population of less than 10,000 and a daily visiting population of around 350,000, rising over the next decade to an anticipated 420,000, of whom only 5 or 6% arrive by private car or taxi. There is a similar number arriving by bicycle but the balance, say 87-88%, arrive by foot, bus, train or tube and so by definition are pedestrians for the final leg of their journey. It is weird that they apparently don’t see how they can lose the competition with Canary Wharf to be the location of choice for the financial sector simply by being an unattractive environment in which to work.

  3. Wyadvd says:

    What a stupid, artificial classification. It is only remotely relevant because this country has such a crap infrastructure in the first place. The first type of cyclist fits my description but its more out of necessity really in my case. If I was in holland I am sure it wouldn’t be the infrastructure itself that led me to cycle on very busy roads even though it were provided as it is in my case. The trouble is it is so crap it actually makes my journey 15 minutes longer if I use it so in a utilitarian sense I cannot achieve my objectives in the morning and after work: namely to drop my daughter to breakfast club on the Tagalong and then cycle ten miles to work on time and then the reverse at home time. The wonderful British infrastructure is so crap that I cannot do this if I use it because it makes me late!

    By the way, did you read doctor hutches column in the cycling weekly a few weeks back re Dutch infrastructure ? If he’s convinced then so am I! You have an ally!

  4. These documents from the DfT always have an air somehow of the conditions imagined in them being for someone else. The authors are not imagining designs that they themselves would use, but for imaginary other people.

    Consider last… grade separation.
    So that means pavements are on the way out then. Has anybody told pedestrians about this, particularly the blind?

    • I think they probably mean bridges and underpasses by “grade separation” here.

      The root problem is that in the UK we require all roads to carry as much motor traffic as possible as the top priority. Whatever the nice words say, people on foot on or bicycles can only ever come second to the motor car provision, except in the few cases where roads with lots of shops have been pedestrianised (an odd anomaly in the car domination of our roads, that’s successful for the shops but still strongly resisted in places that aren’t yet pedestrianised).

      We are so addicted to the private motor car that we don’t even realise we’re addicted. We waste money and lives simply to satisfy our craving to drive motor cars are far and as fast and as often as we possibly can. Of course motor cars are useful and convenient for certain journey types, but we forget that they’re hopeless for the majority of trips: short local trips with limited space for parking at each end.

      • Paul M says:

        At first sight, I guess that’s the weirdest thing: I doubt many cyclists would argue that cars should be banned entirely, especially as more than 80% of them also have cars, but it is quite a simple rational perspective to argue that cars are misused, primarily by being used for short journeys, or unneccessary journeys. Examples which spring to mind are those cases of children being driven to a school less than 500 metres from their homes (about 10% of such journeys made by car?) or the one you quite often see in belly-ache letters to the local rag about preserving the God-given right to “pop down the road for a pint of milk”. The startling statistics, that 2/3rd of urban car journeys are under 5 miles, half under 3 miles etc, have been getting an airing recently betond the confines of cycling blogs. If you could just “pop” onto your bicycle and take that 1-2 mile trip to the 7/11 for a pinta, you would almost certainly be home sooner, by the time you have factored in finding a parking space and feeding a meter.

        Given the sheer preponderance of short car trips that must surely be where the main attention should be directed. Much as I admire those who do 10 mile commutes by bike having dropped the kids off at their school on a trailerbike, that is never going to be sold to the great majority of people while oil is still oozing out of wells

        • Wyadvd says:

          Funny you should say that. I live on the outskirts of a Kent village which has a very well stocked village shop. I am the only cyclist in the family, and it took me a long time for my wife to get used to the fact that the car was still parked outside the house when I popped down to the shops ! And I was often so quick she thought I had maybe barely managed to find the car keys by the time I got back with a full pannier! She still assumes ill use the car! When will she learn!

          As for medium distance commuting, most people’s problem is that they always underestimate what their own body is capable of. If they would only give themselves two or three weeks of (unpleasant) daily exercise until they are fit , they would discover the invigorating benefits of daily vigorous cycling. It fills your day with energy doesn’t it? We now have only one car on the road , the other is Sorned as a result of my cycling. Must get round to selling the damn thing!

  5. Edward says:

    Weird that these seems to be no corresponding classification of drivers, eg: half blind geriatrics at one end, arrogant boy racers at the other and white van drivers somewhere along the spectrum with different types of road suited to each of them.

    • Excellent point! Newly-qualified drivers should obviously be restricted to only driving on motorways where the crash barriers, wide lanes, junctions, hard shoulders and lack of pedestrians and cyclists all contribute to the lowest levels of danger of all road types. If they want to drive to the cinema they’ll have to campaign for a motorway to be built that goes there, or they can just obey the advisory “NOVICE MOTORISTS GET OUT AND WALK” signs at each motorway exit.

  6. Best ways to deter disabled cyclists: ask us to dismount or force us to take longer cycle routes!… Ensuring that cycle routes are all safe and barrier free (incl steps, gates, etc), sufficiently wide and camber-free to accommodate trikes and tandems ensures that not only disabled cyclists but also parents and small traders are far more likely to leave their vehicules at home, improving traffic flow for all. And no, being a disabled cyclist doesn’t necessarily being a novice, leisure cyclist. Many experienced, fast, commuter cyclists are disabled, some of whom ride handbikes (yes, that’s what hand-cranked machines are called!). Who’s going to ask David Weir to dismount if he turns up on a handbike and the cycle lane’s too narrow for it?!

  7. adamef says:

    Do they acknowledge anywhere that there’s an overlap between categories. That is, some people are one type of cyclists sometimes and another category at others? I spend some of my time in full lycra, able to travel with speed (20 to 40mph) and agility on a road bike, but most of the time on a cargo bike with 2 kids in it travelling slowly and needing more space and a slower pace of traffic. I get to take the direct routes on my road bike, but unfortunately am expected to have to go the extra long circuitous routes when I am on the bike that is harder work to power! The cargo bike journeys always encounter longer distances, more hills and many barriers. Exactly what you don’t need when you’re transporting weight on a heavier bike. There is no alternative though except for braving busy main HGV laden roads with my children, which is not realistic when my speeds average between 7 and 10 mph sometimes on the cargo bike.

  8. adamef says:

    To simplify the above comment, it ‘s the times that I’m set up to ride long distances fast that I get to use the short routes and the times when I’m in normal clothes wanting to just get somewhere locally that I have to go the long routes.

  9. Mark says:

    The 2 LTNs mentioned are from 2008 and 2004 respectively and so out of date. They were the state’s guidance at the time and will become less relevant as time goes on. With the current government’s obsession with dismantling state intervention, LTNs and Traffic Advisory Leaflets (TALs) are expected to be phased out – there has only been one TAL this year. I am not supporting flawed advice, but it was a product of its time. If things do change in favour of walking and cycling, I fear that the state advice will be lost which means local authorities will become less consistent which is an issue for road safety.

    • That’s not quite true, because LTN 2/08 is the current guidance on cycle infrastructure design. It has not been superseded, although LTN 1/12 now provides some extra guidance on the design of ‘shared use’ facilities, to be read in conjunction with LTN 2/08.

      • wyadvd says:

        The one type of cyclist they forgot was that strange breed who actually enjoys cycling so much that they deliberately take a route which is double the most direct route and leave the house an hour early so they can do it (like me sometimes)

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