Out and about with “new mobility”

A 3D model of urban streets and different forms of transport. Transportation’s latest buzz-word is “new mobility”. The focus of transportation has moved from infrastructure to people getting out and about. That is, a move from what it is to what it does. Our mobility, whether walking or riding, is key to everything else in our lives. Transportation connects us to people and places. The impending changes to the way transport services will be delivered in the future is the topic of a new strategy document.

The Smart Cities Council released a transportation strategy, Mobility Now: Connecting Communities, Smarter, Sooner, Safer. We are on the cusp of major change with electric and automated vehicles. But this change will offer little to our sustainability and inclusion goals if the only thing that changes is the type of car we are likely to buy.  

The strategy outlines steps including redesigning the urban environment, introducing more accessible mobility, and creating an incentive regime. Of particular concern is solving the problem of  “first and last mile” options. 

You can read an overview of the strategy and also download the full document. It is a call to action for a coordinated approach across government, the private sector and the community. 

 

Movement and Place: A guide

Front cover of the movement and place guide.Transportation is more than trains, planes and automobiles. The design of the built environment can make or break a successful transportation system. Transport for NSW and the state government architect recognise this and have come up with a great guide to movement and place. 

The guide aims to change some established ways of working so that we get better places and better outcomes. It outlines:

      • a collaborative method for practitioners, stakeholders, and the community 
      • shared responsibility and a shared language to support collaboration 
      • a process for implementing this approach in decisions and project types
      • criteria for measuring and evaluating movement and place now and in future projects

The Practitioner’s Guide to Movement and Place has three main sections. The introduction to the concept and implementing a place based approach cover the practicalities. The third section is more about understanding why this approach is important. The guide is necessarily technical in places and has a reference list at the end.

Established working practices and standards are likely to change, according to the guide. It is asking professionals to think differently about their role in creating successful places. 

There is a companion guide, Aligning Movement and Place. 

Editor’s Note: I couldn’t find a mention of accessibility and inclusion. I assume that practitioners will make this part of the process, but that means it will likely rely on existing standards.  Aboriginal custodians get a mention.

Mobility Scooters in the Wild

picture of a woman on a mobility scooter trying to get under a barrier constructed to prevent vehicles and bicycles from entering the pathWhen it comes to accessibility in the built environment, wheelchair users get the most attention. Partly because the access icon looks like a wheelchair user, and partly because built environment standards are based around them. But what about users of other mobility devices? A long ramp might be no problem for a powered wheelchair user. However, walking a long ramp with a wheelie walker, or pushing up a wheelchair is another matter. Mobility scooter users are another group often left out of design considerations. That’s just one issue raised in an article prepared for the UD2020 conference now rescheduled to May 2021.

The article concludes that thoughtful attention to the planning, design and maintenance of places and spaces could minimise current obstacles to using powered mobility devices. These devices are also a low carbon transport option, but if the built environment poses barriers, it will be back to he private car or taxi. 

The article is titled, Mobility Scooters in the Wild: Users resilience and innovation. It is based on qualitative research. The users’ experiences are illuminating for urban planners and public works staff. It is literally where the rubber meets the road. Published online by Griffith University.

Pedestrians on Wheels: A new paradigm is a related topic.

Abstract: Recent research in Australia on powered mobility device users highlights that the built environment does not cater for their inclusion. The powered mobility device as an assistive transport technology is vital in ensuring access to public services to ensure health and wellbeing for people with mobility impairments. In this paper, we examine how users are co-producing urban design through their practices performed “out in the wild”. We identify the pressing considerations for how powered mobility device users both survive and thrive. Firstly, as electric powered mobility devices, they face similar legislative and regulatory issues to e-scooters and other niche innovations currently being trialled on city streets that both solve problems and create them for urban governance. How to create inclusive policies for powered mobility device users that allow safe travel and easy access is currently not well understood. Secondly, the impact of climate change on energy systems is creating momentum for renewable power and smart systems that will in turn impact decisions and policies around electrified private and public transport and associated energy infrastructure. It is important that powered mobility devices are not overlooked in planning for inter-modal electrified transport. Third, national and international efforts to achieve safer and more sustainable “car free” cities to reduce congestion and increase liveability need to include design for powered mobility device users. This could potentially provide spaces for greater inclusivity and social integration of powered mobility device users through the design of public and private spaces. Finally, an ageing population globally is set to encourage demand for technologies and accompanying infrastructure to facilitate mobility into senior years. Given the nexus of legality, energy, sustainability and ageing, it positions this paper’s focus as an integral linchpin to critically informed and inclusive urban design.

Access Insight newsletter: focus on parking

Front cover of magazine showing an accessible parking space.Accessible parking spaces are the focus in the latest issue of the access consultants newsletter. Each contributor offers a different perspective on the topic. Nick Morris gives a personal story, and Howard Mutrie and Eric Martin get technical with standards. Rachel Whymark discusses car parking related to Specialist Disability Accommodation. As with all standards there are always some anomalies and these are discussed.  

You can read the magazine online using ISSUU, or you can download the PDF version.  

You can also see back issues of the newsletter on the ACAA website

 

Street Smart: A Pedestrian’s View

CUDA Director John Evernden gave a presentation at the UD2020 Webinar, People and Transport. His presentation, Street Smart: A Pedestrian’s View, shows pictures of various situations to show what works and what doesn’t. As a picture show (with Alt text) most pictures are self explanatory. This is truly where “the rubber hits the road”. 

Header slide of Street Smart presention.

Accessible journeys: a measuring tool

four older women using wheelie walkers are crossing the road in single file.Transport planners and engineers are not new to counting pedestrians. But how many of them count the number of pedestrians using a mobility device? This information is very useful in understanding the importance of designing for accessibility. A study carried out in New Zealand ran a pilot study for measuring pedestrians using mobility devices. The aim was to develop an appropriate counting tool and survey template to help with transport planning.

The New Zealand study by Bridget Burdett was carried out in six sites. Twelve categories of aid were included in the count worksheet. Burdett acknowledges that this is not a measurement of disability per se, or an assessment of accessibility for a facility or for transport connections. However it proved to be a reliable tool which can be used more widely.

The interview data were useful in gaining more detail about the complexities of being a pedestrian who uses a mobility device.

The title of the article is, Measuring accessible journeys: A tool to enable participation, and is available from ResearchGate. It has more detail about the methods and applications for the tool in creating accessible journeys.

Abstract: This study set out to demonstrate the feasibility and usefulness of a series of pedestrian counts, including counting the subset of pedestrians who use visibly identifiable mobility aids. The resulting proportion of mobility aid users can then be used as a proxy measure of relative accessibility for each count site. The study acknowledges the diversity of disability, and the count is not intended to capture all people who identify as having disability of any kind. It was estimated from Statistics New Zealand data that approximately 3% of New Zealand’s adult population uses a mobility aid for travel at any particular time. This figure includes those identifying as having permanent disability, as well as an estimate to account for those not included in this figure, namely children, people who do not identify as having a disability but nevertheless use a mobility aid, and those with temporary disability requiring use of a mobility aid. The study identified opportunities to use the tool to remove gaps in the delivery of accessible transportation, across all parts of its system from policy and planning, through design, construction and monitoring. Its widespread promotion will support more objective measurement of inclusion, to inform best-practice infrastructure investment for all.

Editor’s comment: The number of people using a mobility device relative to the population is not the issue in terms of designing accessible and inclusive places. However, for transport planners the tool brings to the fore the need to be accessible and inclusive. 

Complete Streets: Health agencies play a role

Pedestrians are walking towards the camera. They are on a wide walkway. Some people are looking at their phones. They are dressed for warm weather. There are buildings on each side of the walkwayThe Complete Streets concept is about creating a safe place for all road users regardless of their age or ability. Transport and planning agencies usually have control over road and street plans. But public health agencies also have a role to play. Along with other stakeholders, health agencies can evaluate initiatives from a health, physical activity and inclusion point of view. A report from the US gives an overview of strategies and examples of how public health agencies, advocates and practitioners were involved in planning processes.

The report, published by University of Illinois, is titled, “Public Health Engagement in Complete Streets Initiatives: Examples and Lessons Learned”, is 18 pages plus appendices. 

Complete streets should also mean good footpaths. Parking on and across footpaths in Australia is illegal. For people who are pushing strollers or wheeling anything it means going out on the roadway. And not good for people who are blind or have low vision for the same reason. An article on the BBC News website explains some of the difficulties about this issue, especially now that the UK are providing designated places where it is OK now to Two cars parked with one wheel mounting the kerb of the footpathpark on the footpath. A backward step (excuse the pun). The article includes videos showing the problems. 

Automated vehicles: Are we there yet?

Side of an autonomous vehicle is cut away to show four seats in pairs facing each other.Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world with electric and automated vehicles, but this isn’t stopping development. Until now, vehicle design has focused around a version of the average driver. That means some people are left out, such as tall and short people. Automation will change all that.

Apart from aspects such as safety and fuel efficiency, people previously excluded from driving a car can now be included in designs. But at what point should they be involved in contributing to design?  A conference paper discusses this question.

The introduction of autonomous vehicles will happen in five stages. The first stage is basic automation such as breaking, parking and controlling speed. The final stage is where there are no controls as we know them. No steering wheel, brake lever or pedals. Stages 2-4 have intermediate degrees of automation until stage 5 is reached. One of the major barriers to implementation is integrating with existing infrastructure. This means some form of onboard human control, for now at, at least. 

The paper discusses people with disability or difficulties, older adults, and children. In practical terms, vehicles could be designed to “themes” which suit user individual needs. An office theme, an entertainment theme, or an adaptable theme to suit particular disabilities. In this case, it could be by offering all information in the most suitable mode, or adapting ergonomics to suit easy operation. 

The title of the article is Towards Life-Long Mobility: Accessible Transportation with Automation. It was published in 2016, and no doubt further research has been carried out. However, this is a good introduction to the topic. ABC News also has a 2017 article discussing some of the issues.

Abstract: Despite the prevalent discussions on automated vehicles, little research has been conducted with a focus on inclusiveness of traditionally excluded populations from driving. Even though we may envision a future where everyone can drive with perfect automation, the problem will not be that simple. As with any other problem domains, we need to scrutinize all the design considerations – not only each population’s characteristics (capabilities and limitations), but also the entire system, technological limitations, and task environments. To this end, the present paper explores challenges and opportunities of automated vehicles for multiple populations, including people with various difficulties/disabilities, older adults, and children.

Image courtesy ABC news.

Accessible train carriage upgrades

Looking along the track to an oncoming train entering a station.The Warrnambool train line in Victoria still has old inaccessible carriages. The 2020 Budget promises money for carriage upgrades. However, it could be a long wait. ABC News has an article about the long distance Warrnambool to Melbourne line and the proposed upgrades. 

Train station design will be the topic of Michael Walker’s presentation on 13 October 2020 for the CUDA webinar, People and Transport. You can also find out more about the Disability Transport Standard review. Register with Interpoint Events.  CUDA members are automatically signed up.

Banner for People and Transport Webinar 13 October showing a street scene.

Better bus stops

The roadway is marked with the words "bus stop" in yellow lettering.How difficult can designing a bus stop be? Turns out there are lots of elements to consider. Bus stops are one element of an accessible and inclusive travel chain. Each country has their own format or standards for bus stops. But this doesn’t help visitors who are unfamiliar with the design and how it works. 

Accessible bus stops are more than a stop sign and perhaps a seat with a shelter. It has to fit within an accessible urban environment. Footpath materials, information and communication and street furniture all have a part to play. A bus stop outside an airport in Portugal is the subject of a case study. The researchers looked specifically at older travellers. They were able to compare bus stops back home with the one at the airport and give useful feedback and share ideas. Portugal is a favourite destination within Europe so there were many comparisons.

The results were generally consistent across the responses regardless whether the respondent had a disability. Many of the responses were fairly obvious, such as barrier-free footpaths and no obstacles around the bus stop. Shelters with seats at a suitable height and easy to read timetables rated as important. Of course, a bus stop is useless if you can’t use the bus, so low floor buses were important. 

The paper is titled, An Evaluation of the Universal Accessibility of Bus Stop Environments by Senior Tourists. It was published in the International Information and Engineering Technology Association. It is open access. See also Contributions of tourism to social inclusion of persons with disability for more about inclusive tourism in Portugal. 

Abstract: Sustainable mobility demands an integrated approach covering all modes of transport in a built environment designed for everyone. Social inclusion strategies required the improvement of transportation for people with reduced mobility. Universal accessibility has been incorporated into urban renovation processes, settlement, housing and transportation. Assessments have been made in measuring the performance of spatial indicators and usually consider technical parameters and/or user perception. In the context of accessible tourism, infrastructures and services have been adapted to be inclusive for all. Accessible built environments are required hence urban spaces, buildings, transport vehicles, information technology & communication, and services must bear in mind the approach of Age Sensitive Design. The research project Accessibility for All in Tourism focuses on bus stops designed to be age-friendly and inclusive. A questionnaire was developed for the elderly tourist aged 60+ about their perceptions of bus stop environments in their countries. Findings indicate that elderly tourists with disabilities are more critical of the existing accessibility conditions, and have a greater perception of the inclusive characteristics of bus stops. Furthermore, although older people take barrier-free spaces into account, there is some criticism around pedestrian crossings, bench design and the lack of room for wheelchair users.