Inclusive mobility – a guide

The UK Government has updated their 2002 Inclusive Mobility guide. The update comes from seeking the views of people with disability, representative groups and practitioners. The principles underpinning the guide remain the same in this 2021 document.

The guidance covers features compatible with creating an inclusive environment. Pedestrians include people using all types of mobility aids that are meant for use on footpaths. The guide is focused on people with disability, but many others benefit too. Parents with small children, people carrying or wheeling heavy shopping, people with a leg in plaster, and many older people.

“The research for the guide included the needs of people with mental health conditions, dementia, age-related and non-visible impairments.”

A wet wintery street scene in London showing a line of mid-rise buildings and shops.

The overall aim of the guide is to enable practitioners to create a universally designed public realm, and through that, social inclusion. The document is useful for anyone designing and installing public realm improvements and new infrastructure.

To begin with…

The guide advises practitioners to consider all pedestrians from the outset of the design. This includes any transport or pedestrian infrastructure and planned maintenance. Any conflicts arising between the needs of different disability groups can be resolved by including them in the design process.

“Engagement should continue throughout a project, contribute to the design, and might include user tests and trials.”

People sit around round tables discussing questions. There are four round tables shown in this picture

People with non-visible impairments also find uneven surfaces, crossing the road, navigating slopes and ramps difficult. Hence they are less likely to make the journey. These users benefit from pedestrian environments that are simpler, with distinct features and provision of clear information. Being confident in knowing where you are going is an essential part of feeling welcome in the public domain.

Human Factors

The introduction to the guide covers basic human requirements for ease of movement. This includes generous allocations of circulation space for people using mobility devices, or pushing baby strollers. Taking a universal design approach will generally suit most people. However, some people need specific designs. A deafblind person needs to know when they have the green walk sign and assistive technology comes into play here.

The guide is mainly concerned with people with mobility, vision, hearing, dexterity and reaching, and cognitive conditions. It discusses these in detail so that practitioners can grasp the full range of human diversity.

Footways, pedestrian crossings, changes in level, tactile paving, car parking, bus and tram stops, taxi ranks and transport buildings are all covered. The section on the use of digital transport is important as many information services are either web or kiosk based.

The title of the guide is, Inclusive Mobility: A Guide to Best Practice on Access to Pedestrian and Transport Infrastructure. The guide also reminds practitioners that they have legal obligations to comply with any disability discrimination legislation and related standards.

Future mobility: user views

TRIPS is a European transport project for making new mobility solutions affordable, accessible and safe for everyone. People with disability took part in a study to see what their attitudes were towards future mobility. Bike sharing, e-scooters and motorbike taxies are largely rejected in their current format.

People with disability are open to using smart technology but it needs to be seamlessly integrated for overall levels of transport accessibility. The full results are reported in the White Paper: Views of persons with disabilities on future mobility.

“In a nutshell, our findings suggest that a number an interactive, real-time, accessible journey planner would motivate users to travel and make their journey more independent, faster, easier, nicer, and safer.”

Front cover of the TRIPS White Paper.

553 people with disability from 21 European countries were surveyed for the project. The majority (54%) of respondents had a physical disability, followed by 16% vision, and 8% hearing. 15% of respondents had multiple disabilities.

9 mobility concepts were presented to respondents including ride pooling, micro-transit, motorbike taxi, robotaxi, e-scooter sharing and bike sharing. In general women were less willing to use new mobility systems, particularly ride pooling, motorbike sharing and robotaxis. At this point it is not known why.

Accessibility is a door to door issue. The White paper offers suggestions which include engaging with people with disability in the design of vehicles, services and infrastructure.

A row of e-scooters stand to attention on the footpath.

Design suggestions

Prioritise a journey planner that provides accessible information about door to door journeys. It would improve willingness to travel. Redesign bikesharing schemes, e-scooters and cycle lanes. Ensure AI solutions are developed with people with disability and accessibility experts to avoid bias in design.

A slide presentation by Alexandra Konig has the short version of the White Paper and short term and long term service recommendations. The title is, The views of persons with disabilities on future mobility.

TRIPS = TRansport Innovation for disabled People needs Satisfaction.

Our Streets: Dangerous by Design

The latest Dangerous by Design report from Smart Growth America has some interesting statistics about road deaths. This 2022 report differs from previous reports because it captures the behaviours of people during a pandemic. People walked more and drove less, but there were more road deaths. The report examines why.

“Seeing driving go down while deaths went up should call into question the long-held belief that traffic fatalities are inextricably linked to the amount of driving.”

Front cover of Dangerous by Design Report.

Conventional wisdom among policymakers and transportation professionals is that traffic fatalities are inextricably linked to the amount of driving. But the decrease in driving during the pandemic meant less congestion and a significant increase in speeds. Therefore more people were killed. Consequently, speed is the key factor.

Smart Growth America claims that too many transportation agencies and decision makers have been “asleep at the switch”. Their incremental changes to improve safety have not made any positive difference overall.

Those in power, “will have to unwind the deeply embedded, invisible yet powerful emphasis on speed, which is completely incompatible with safety.”

Two ambulance officers push a patient into the ambulance.

The Dangerous by Design 2022 report has several recommendations in terms of policy and design. The guest supplements provide practical experience and add depth to the report. The bottom line of the report is that we have to choose between speed and safety.

Walking and wheeling

The report has a sidebar about “walking” and inclusive language. Of course, some people cannot walk and that is why the term “pedestrian” is used throughout. People using mobility devices are considered pedestrians. However, they are not separated from people using other devices such as skateboards. Consequently, data are difficult to assess in terms of people with disability.

An engineer’s perspective

Charles Marohn writes in a guest supplement that engineers start the process by using the values of their profession. They don’t stop to consider their values might be questioned by others. It’s about standard practice. He says no-one asks questions about speed in proposed road and street designs. Engineers might claim they are not in control of how fast people drive, but Marohn questions this “excuse”. He believes they have a duty to consider it.

Measuring transport accessibility

Transport planners are guided by regulations related to mobility, but accessibility requirements relate to what people can achieve.  Accessible transport systems cannot be measured objectively like length or weight but rather by what it enables users to do. So we need a way to merge accessibility measures with infrastructure measures. But how do you measure transport accessibility? 

Jonathan Levine presents some interesting concepts about accessibility and mobility in his discussion paper. He explores the conceptual barriers to shifting transport planning from mobility to accessibility. Levine also presents a technique for analysing project-level accessibility analysis. 

His thoughts highlight the different goals of accessibility and mobility and how they can be brought together. Transport rules and regulations are the current guiding tools focused on mobility. They are about traffic impact, land use, and transport demands. So embedding accessibility in transport planning requires some new accessibility tools. 

One of the issues with adopting equity principles is that they are usually only seen from a transport disadvantage viewpoint. But everyone benefits when their accessibility increases. Using an accessibility approach enables transport planners to focus on human performance rather than infrastructure performance. 

Ann Arbor is the subject of a case study where Levine analyses the accessibility impact on three land use development projects. This is where the paper becomes technical. 

Levine’s proposed method goes beyond the mobility focus and concepts such as the cost of congestion. The tool takes a standard traffic impact analysis and combines it with an accessibility analysis of an individual land development project. 

The title of the discussion paper is, The Accessibility Shift: Conceptual Obstacles and How to Overcome (one of) Them



Transport and age-friendly cities

Unintended consequences from policy actions are not new. Sometimes things come undone in those little details that seemed unimportant at the time. Sometimes it’s because policy actions come from different parts of an overall system. Transport is a case in point. Transport is about the whole journey – from the front gate to the destination and home again. It’s more than cars, buses and trains – it’s footpaths, information systems and supporting infrastructure. And transport is a key element of age-friendly cities.

Transportation is a social determinant of health – particularly for older people. According to the World Health Organization their “lives are guided by the available transportation system”.

An older man and woman are walking away from the camera down a street. They are wearing backpacks and holding hands. Where do you want to live when you grow older?

One potential policy outcome is that distinct actions, which address different facets of the same overall approach, undermine one another.

Australian researchers set about assessing policy actions for supporting older people’s transportation in Greater Sydney. The analysis revealed unwanted consequences because some actions were undermining each other. They also found systemic constraints and the failure to account for small, but important, details.

Older people’s mobility applies to land use, open and public space, supplementary transport, and community transport. This means that policy makers need to examine interactions between different parts of the system so they can foresee potential unwanted consequences. Then they can do something about it.

The title of the article is, Using systems thinking to assess the functioning of an “Age-Friendly City” governance network in Australia.

The authors also produced a Policy Brief based on the research with their recommendations:

Front page of the Policy Brief showing a man and a woman on a bus wearing masks. Age friendly cities.
  • 1. Coordinate plans for residential and public transport development.
  • 2. Establish key performance indicators for creating and funding new footpaths.
  • 3. Improve cross-sector information flow.
  • 4. Increase the predictability of funding for health and social care transport services.

From the abstract

Age-Friendly Cities (AFC) is a framework for promoting healthy ageing through local actions. We use systems thinking to assess potential outcomes of actions to support older people’s mobility, undertaken within an AFC commitment in Greater Sydney.

Four approaches to support older people’s mobility were identified and situated to the Multiple Governance Framework: land use, open and public space, supplementary transport, and community transport.

Analysis revealed potential for unwanted consequences associated with each, which can be generalised into three generic potential outcomes for other jurisdictions to consider.
A recommendation from this research is for policy actors to examine feedback interactions between actions so that they can foresee a wider range of outcomes and take defensive action against those unwanted.

This research not only identifies what to look for, in terms of potential outcomes, but also where to look, in terms of the level of decision-making. This research offers a new way to assess the functioning of AFC governance networks by their collective outcomes and challenges the standards for the evaluation of AFC.

Inclusive and accessible street guides

Which street guide is the best? Well, that depends on which perspective you are coming from. Urban designers, transport planners, pedestrians and drivers all have a stake in streets.

Here are four guides from previous posts for reference.

five lane city highway full of cars.. We need car free zones.

If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you get people and places.

Attributed to Fred Kent
Front cover of the guide. It is blue with white text. It has outlines of pedestrians trees, buildings and transport

Global Designing Cities website has the Global Street Design Guide available for download. The guide has sections for designing streets for kids, and implementing street transformations. The Global Designing Cities initiative was launched in 2014 and as the name suggests, it takes an international view. The website also has a series of short films.

logo of 880 cities initiative.

A Citizen’s Guide to Better Streets takes a holistic look at street design from land planning and zoning to streets as public spaces. The main concerns of traffic engineers, such as safety and function are also covered. The guide was published in 2008 but the issues are current today. It is on the website.

Front cover of the guide to healthy streets indicators

The Guide to the Healthy Streets Indicators from the UK has information and checklists in an easy to use format. It focuses on walkability without the express inclusion of people using wheeled mobility, but alludes to them. The guide covers feelings of safety, places to stop and rest, not too noisy, shade and shelter, easy to cross roads, and pedestrians from all walks of life.

Prototype of a universally design street with separate pathways for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.

The American Society of Landscape Architects promotes green, universally designed streets. These safely separate pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles, and public transport and use strategies to reduce reckless driving behaviour. The video below indicates the sensory overload that busy streets can create for some.


Older road users and pedestrians

As the share of older road users increases it’s important to pay more attention to their safety as road users and pedestrians. Transport planners have to draw together urban design, street and road design as well as traffic signal technology. This makes the design landscape crowded with regulations and competing interests between vehicles and people.

A road crossing with a confusing arrangement of tactile markers.

The mobility and road safety of older people relies on the design of the whole transport system. This includes infrastructure, traffic engineering, traffic signals, signs, and markings. They all impact on safe, barrier-free and inclusive transport.

A conference paper from Germany outlines some important findings on the safety and mobility of older people. Basic requirements for transport system design are:

Two women using wheelie walkers are crossing the road in a country town.
    • Reduction of complexity of traffic situations
    • Improvement of the perception of traffic regulations and systems
    • Design of safe crossings
    • Avoiding detours for pedestrians and cyclists

For traffic engineers this raises conflicting needs and goals but there should still be good compromises. Of course, considering older people in design solutions usually have benefits for other road users.

The paper covers traffic signal standards and regulations in different countries and the design and timings of traffic and pedestrian signals. Green signals and arrows at intersections can be confusing for drivers and pedestrians alike. Countdown and “don’t walk” signals are beneficial for all. These are common in the United States, Japan and Singapore. Older pedestrians can have more confidence about clearing the intersection.

The Green Man + card in Singapore is like a Seniors Card, and tapping this at the signal button provides more time to cross. Another idea is special buttons or sensors to request a longer time. However, the risk of misuse and the technical complexity rendered this idea unworkable in Germany.

The paper discusses intersection layout, routing of pedestrians and cyclists and control strategies. The author notes there is also a responsibility for pedestrians to enter the crossing at the beginning of the green signal, not some time afterwards.

The title of the conference paper is, Considering the requirements of elderly road users in traffic signal control. Or you can download the PDF version.

From the abstract

The share of elderly road users in total traffic is increasing in Germany as well as in most other OECD countries. To ensure mobility and road safety for this group, special requirements have to be considered in transport system design.

Besides basic requirements in transport planning, traffic engineering can help significantly to improve mobility and road safety for the elderly. This paper outlines elderly road users’ requirements in traffic signal control. The paper discusses standards from Germany, United States, United Kingdom and other selected countries as well as examples from practice.

Signal program design, intersection layout, control strategies, and technical design of signal lights are covered. The paper closes with conclusions on how well elderly road users are considered in traffic signal standards already. It also highlights the need to apply such regulations in practice, despite goal conflicts and financial constraints.

Inclusive future mobility

To make future mobility inclusive and accessible automotive practitioners and researchers need to understand the fundamentals of universal design. People from diverse backgrounds and levels of capability should be included in the design processes of future mobility services. That’s the conclusion of a group of automotive researchers and they’ve come up with a framework to help.

A mobile phone is lying flat with a pop up cityscape rising out of it. Inclusive future mobility.

The framework helps designers to think of essential design dimensions for inclusive design. There are possible trade-offs, synergies/new options, or other impacts that a decision for a particular design option has. Using a fictional case study they showcase the design process.

The design framework serves as a tool for automotive practitioners and researchers for communication, ideation, or reflection. Following the universal design process the researchers explain how they created the framework and then how to use it. The framework is built on previous work, and the mobility experiences of experts that work in inclusive facilities.

Case study using the framework

The authors advise that sticking to the standard principles of universal design could result in overly complex processes and products. However, thinking about potential users and their abilities increases the chance of identifying synergies. That is, finding solutions that suit the wider population as well as “non-average” users.

Technology will be a major influence on future mobility and connections with web interfaces will form part of the design solutions. The authors take readers through a step by step process. Key sections of the framework cover:

  • The users’ needs and capabilities
  • The journey’s context
  • What does the transportation service look like?
  • How do people interact with the service?
  • Training for the journey.

The application of the framework is based on fictional designers, not mobility users. This is very useful for designers new to the universal design concept. By using two designers in the case study scenario, they discuss the pros and cons of each method and idea.

The title of the paper is, An Emergent Design Framework for Accessible and Inclusive Future Mobility. For non-tech people the last part is most useful. For technical people the paper speaks to many aspects of automotive design.

From the abstract

Future mobility will be highly automated, multimodal, and ubiquitous and thus have the potential to address a broader range of users. Yet non-average users are often underrepresented or simply not thought of in design processes of vehicles and mobility services. this leads to exclusion from standard transportation.

Consequently, it is crucial for designers of such vehicles and services to consider the needs of non-average users from the begining. In this paper, we present a design framework that helps designers take the perspective and thinking of the needs of non-average users.

We present a set of exemplary applications from the literature and interviews and show how they fit into the framework, indicating room for further developments. We demonstrate how the framework supports the universal design approach in a fictional design process.

Inclusive Autonomous Vehicle Design

Ergonomists and engineers are considering ways to design autonomous vehicles to include a diversity of users. That includes people with disability and impairments. However, it’s not just a case of adding universal design principles into the design process. Designing an inclusive autonomous vehicle requires attention to many other factors. It’s an interdisciplinary design process.

A blue and white drawing of a small car against taller blue buildings signifying an autonomous vehicle.

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) present an opportunity for redefining the standard ergonomic design approaches especially when designing for people with disability and impairments.

Researchers in Europe have come up with a way to integrate relevant design data to ensure designs meet standards and the diversity of users. Overall user perception is linked to user perception and satisfaction and this is where ergonomics come into play. The paper is very technical and mainly of interest to engineers and ergonomists. The researchers claim that this platform will turn attention to “human-centric” design rather than engineering design.

For those who advocate for inclusive vehicle design, it shows the complexity designers have to deal with. However, it is good to see this important issue being addressed at this early stage of future mass production.

The title of the paper is, Inclusive Autonomous Vehicle Interior Design (IAVID) Platform. Click on the “Article” button to download the open access copy.

From the abstract

Passenger comfort in vehicles is a complex, human-centric segment of the vehicle interior design process. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) present an opportunity for redefining standard design approaches. There are options for improved ergonomics and meeting the needs of a wide range of users, including persons with impairments.

However, the complexity of incorporating universal design principles together with all other interdisciplinary information in the development process requires a suitable method to systematize the data and simplify their use.

This paper proposes a platform for inclusive autonomous vehicle interior design (IAVID) which can be used as a tool to support the creation of ergonomic and inclusive AV interiors. The proposed IAVID platform is based on model-based systems engineering. It is intended for organizing and updating all relevant interdisciplinary information to input in the AV interior development. By doing so, the interdisciplinary collaboration among vehicle development teams is strengthened.

Air travel with a wheelchair

Wheelchair users find air travel the most challenging transport of all. Not because of a personal issue, but because airlines don’t like wheelchairs. Every wheelchair user crosses their fingers and hopes that their wheelchair will come through the flight without damage. The other inconveniences and indignities just add to travel stress.

Wheelchair users can stay in their powered wheelchair in taxis, trains and buses, but not in aircraft. The Transport Research Board has concluded that installing wheelchair securements is a win-win for wheelchair users, airlines, and everyone else involved in transporting wheelchair users.

A 12 year old girl is distressed in an aircraft aisle chair after her power wheelchair was taken away.

No major design or engineering challenges stand in the way of securing power wheelchairs in commercial airplanes.

Transport Research Board.
Photo credit Heike Fabig (in Daily Mail)

The title of the article is, Transportation Research Board details efforts to make national travel more ADA accessible. It was published online by Transportation Today.

“In air travel, preliminary research from a TRB consensus report determined that no major design or engineering challenges stand in the way of exploring the market’s need for and technical feasibility of securing personal power wheelchairs in commercial airplanes. This would be a major boost for non-ambulatory travellers, who are not currently allowed to use their personal wheelchair as a seat when flying.

Close up of a row of aircraft seats which are bright blue with grey backs.

Currently, people are potentially put on a flight in a seat that is not appropriate for them. Travellers and airlines risk injury in transfer and in flight. It also risks serious damage to a person’s necessary chair.

The indignity of being hoisted from a personal wheelchair is just one of the difficulties. Worrying that the wheelchair will be unharmed at the end of the flight is another. If it is damaged there is rarely a suitable replacement. Most wheelchair users have their chair fitted for their particular requirements. Some wheelchair users dehydrate themselves before the flight so they won’t need the bathroom during the flight.

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