Good road design

An aerial view of a winding road through a wooded area. Good road design is needed.How much design thought goes into roads and highway? Is it just left to engineers, or are other designers involved? Seems times are changing and a bit more thought is going into roads in the UK. The Design Council has an article that lists the ten principles of good road design that include words such as inclusive and sustainable. The principles were adopted on the recommendations of Highways England Strategic Design Panel and follow the themes of people, places and processes:

      1. makes roads safe and useful
      2. is inclusive
      3. makes roads understandable
      4. fits in context
      5. is restrained
      6. is environmentally sustainable
      7. is thorough
      8. is innovative
      9. is collaborative
      10. is long-lasting

Fourth progress report

Two cars on a road in rural England. This work was updated in 2021 with the fourth progress report. Over the past year and a half, the Panel made the following key recommendations. Highways England should: 

    • accelerate communication and training to promote and embed its design vision and principles into its processes and culture
    • act on the Panel’s recommendations for adapting to climate change, reducing carbon, supporting biodiversity and the design of corridors
    • publish a design strategy to clearly articulate its ambitions for the second road period and beyond

Highways England espouses lofty ideals: “We aim to put people at the heart of our work by designing an inclusive, resilient and sustainable road network; appreciated for its usefulness but also its elegance, reflecting in its design the beauty of the natural, built and historic environment through which it passes, and enhancing it where possible.”  


Lifelong mobility with automation

cars on a two lane highway. Lifelong mobility with automation offers great change.Connected and automated vehicles are being trialled across the world, but will their use and facility be universally designed? The arrival of the self-driving car could be life-changing for people who have been unable to own and/or drive a car. In their article, Towards Life-Long Mobility: Accessible Transportation with Automation, the authors explore some of the challenges and opportunities for automated vehicles for people usually excluded from driving. They conclude that the future of automated vehicles for currently excluded people seems to be promising.


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. This paper brings up some controversial points and is expected to promote lively discussions at the conference.

Electric vehicles and wheelchair users

White box shaped vehicle with green trim, shown here with the lid style front door raised to take a wheelchair.Good to see designers thinking about customising for the independent travel of wheelchair users. The designers claim that you can wheel yourself into the vehicle and drive yourself without the need for assistance from others.

Because the vehicle is small and box like, the wheelchair user can park so that the ramp will lower directly onto the footpath. This vehicle is available in the UK. We might have to wait for more electric vehicles to appear in Australia before this option is available here. See the website for dimensions and other information and more pictures. 

Transport, Mobility and Society

Birds eye view of a wide pedestrian crossing with lots of people on itThe Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England has a mission to understand the interactions between mobility, lifestyles and society in the context of our changing world. This includes equity in transport and mobility.

Professor Graham Parkhurst’s slideshow makes it easy to digest the concept of automated vehicles and the impact this technological change will have on society. One impact is the opportunity for greater equity in the independent use of motor vehicles. The slide show is quite long with some of the most interesting slides in the second half. Plenty to think about. Their webpage has links to other publications.

Barriers to public transport use

picture of two Sydney buses side by side waiting at traffic lights.Why do people with disability refrain from travelling by public transport even after years of focus on its universal design? Norway has gone to great lengths to create an accessible transport system, but the use by people with disability has not risen significantly. Why? The answers are not what you might expect. The experiences of non-users reveals the actual design of a bus or a train is not enough to ensure accessibility. The barriers to public transport use is that the system itself needs to be universally designed.

You can read more in the article, Public Transport and People with Disabilities – the Experiences of Non-users There are valuable lessons here for transit designers in Australia. The authors refer to people with “impairments” and having “deficits” rather than people with disability – the preferred term in Australia. Part of the abstract is below.

From the abstract:

Universal design is high on the agenda in Norway, but despite years of focus on public transport design, it seems the number of people with disability using it has not increased significantly.

The aim of this paper is to add to the knowledge of why non-users with disabilities refrain from travelling by public transport. The authors’ research question is: “Why do people with impairments avoid travelling by public transport even when it is readily accessible, and are there any further measures that could lead to improvements?” 

Assumptions were made and tested in qualitative studies on people with impairments who seldom or never travel by public transport. These were:

1) that insecurity and expectations lead to seldom or non-use of public transport;

2) that the triggering factors causing seldom or non-use of public transport are different from the issues that users experience;

3) that lack of knowledge among (and help from) drivers and personnel is a considerable barrier to non-use;

4) that a ‘travel buddy’ might help increase the use of public transport among non-users; and

5) that some people with disability have alternatives that work better for them in everyday life. 

The findings indicate that feeling insecure, and expectations that problems will be encountered, are significant barriers to non-use. It’s the sum of all these challenges, real or anticipated, that stops people from using public transport. 

So, is universal design is the solution? Or will individualized solutions provide a sense of freedom and participation for people with disability travelling by public transport?

Mobility and mobilising with public transport

Front view of a Queensland Rail train at a station. It says Ipswich on the LED displayMaking the transition from driving to using other transportation options can be difficult – not least of all because many options were not designed with older people in mind. Transport policies, equipment and systems are focused on journeys to work, not the day to day needs of people not in the workforce. 

Introduction to Senior Transportation considers the physical and cognitive limitations of older adult passengers, the challenges in meeting their needs, and the transportation methods that do and do not currently meet their needs. The chapters in this book cover many topics. Transitioning from driving, volunteer driver programs, technology and transportation, and ageing policy and transport, 

Introduction to Senior Transportation: Enhancing Community Mobility and Transportation Services is by By Helen K. Kerschner, Nina M. Silverstein and is available from Routledge.  


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