The kerbside and mobility

A streetscape of the future with street plantings, outdoor eating and a driverless car in a 30 kph zone.
Image from the whitepaper depicting a future street

The idea of smart cities, driverless cars, and artificial intelligence is propelling us into the unknown. But there are some things we can predict. Everyday things will be seen in a new light. The kerbside for example. Other than kerb ramps most of us don’t think about the kerbside and mobility. But somebody else has.

The Future of Place webpage has a link to a report that looks at the Future Ready Kerbside. The publication by Uber and WSP explores what the future might hold in the context of shared mobility and liveable cities.

The kerb is the intersection between the pedestrian area and the road. How space is allocated each side of the kerb dictates who can access these spaces. The kerbside is not passive infrastructure so we need to prepare for its future use. It needs careful management by city leaders.

There are ten recommendations in the Executive Summary of the report and they include:

    • Co-design the vision for places in partnership with the community, businesses and governments. 
    • Move from general parking to pick-up/drop-off for people and goods to improve kerbside productivity and access to local places.
    • Take a people-and-place first approach so that new mobility is an enabler and not a detractor to realising the co-designed vision.
    • Street design guidelines must get ahead of new mobility and proactively focus on the best possible outcomes for people and places.
    • Prioritise walking to access local places, along with transit and
      micro-mobility, supported by funding for local infrastructure. 

The full report is titled, Place and Mobility: Future Ready Kerbside and has more technical detail.  Both the full report and the executive summary have interesting infographics and images depicting how the future might look. 

Make flying less miserable

Inside the cabin of an aircraft, people are queuing in the aisle to take their seatsWhat brings repeat business to an airline? Improving snack selection, smiling staff, warm welcome messages on video screens? None of these. Anyone who has travelled by air, even those who do it regularly, will know that the aircraft itself is rarely the issue. The issue is anxiety. And you can double that for anyone with a cognitive or physical condition which makes it more difficult. So what can be done to make flying less miserable?

An interesting article in FastCompany explains how the anxiety begins before leaving home. Will I miss my flight? Is my baggage under the weight limit and will it arrive safely? Will there be room for my carry-on? And in the current situation, will I catch COVID? The anxiety continues with queues for passport control, waiting for baggage and finally getting to the destination. No wonder travel is tiring.

So the answer to improving customer satisfaction and repeat business is finding ways to reduce anxiety and smooth the the travel experience. The article makes no mention of travellers who need additional supports, but the content of the article has some good points. It is basically about designing the travel experience to be more convenient and easy to use – aligning with universal design concepts. 

There are lessons here for any business selling an experience. The title of the FastCompany article is, Three shockingly obvious ways to make flying less miserable

There is a related article about the future of air travel and how problems might be solved with AI. The article covers  boarding processes, linking ground transport with air transport, and minimising poor passenger behaviour.

See related information in the Airport travel guide for people with dementia

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 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 UD2021 conference.

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.

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. 

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.

Accessible journeys: a measuring tool

Four older women using wheelie walkers are crossing the road in single file. Accessible transport measuring tool.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. What’s needed is a measuring tool.

A study carried out in New Zealand ran a pilot study for measuring pedestrians using mobility devices. The aim was to develop an appropriate measuring 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. 

Curitiba Bus System: Good planning in action

A bus is offloading passengers at a raised tube shaped bus stop. The floor of the bus stop is level with the entry to the bus. Curitiba bus system. Thirty years ago, Curitiba’s forward-thinking and cost-conscious planners integrated public transportation into all the other elements of the urban planning system. They initiated a bus system that focused on meeting the transportation needs of all people. Consequently they claim to have a system that is both efficient and accessible.

While the tube shaped bus shelters seem a little cumbersome being raised up to be level with the bus entry, they shelter travellers from the weather and create a relatively level entry to and from the bus. They also claim that time spent at each stop is less than 30 seconds. Read about the planning of this rapid transport system in southern Brazil. It should be noted that this is not common practice in other parts of Brazil. The title of the article is Curitiba Bus System is Model for Rapid Transit.

A person in a manual wheelchair is entering onto the short yellow ramp into the bus from the tube shaped bus shelter

Woman with a baby stroller using the platform lift to get onto the raised bus stop platform .The bus stop is a tube shaped shelter

Mind the gap in rail travel

A large crowded entrance hall of a railway station showing shops as well as lots of people.We all want the same things from rail travel. Value for money, getting a seat, and arriving on time. But some of us need a bit more than this. Step-free access, accessible information, accessible toilets, and easy ticket purchase.  

The Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation report is based on an international study of public transport systems in five countries. The aim was to identify good practise and issues yet to have solutions. The executive summary reports:

    • Many people with disability experienced abuse and discrimination from both passengers and staff.
    • Easy access to reliable information was critical for planning a journey.
    • There is a considerable difference between urban and rural areas when it comes to accessibility.

The title of the report is, Rail travel and disability: an international perspective on accessibility. 

Rail carriages and universal design

In the train carriage, a woman is seated in a manual wheelchair and is sitting next to a man in a standard seat. They are looking at an in-seat screen, probably for movies.A new design guide for accessible inter-city train carriages covers just about everything you need to know. Oregon State University comprehensively researched design options for making passenger trains universally designed. Their findings are reported in Inclusive Universal Accessible Design Guidelines for Next Gen Passenger Rail. With the age of passengers increasing, they recognise the need for improved access for everyone.

The guide has a lot of technical data to support the design options. Wheeled mobility devices and assistance animals are the focus, along with other groups. The trade-off between a larger restroom and the number of wheeled devices in a carriage doesn’t always mean a loss of seating for others. Folding seats are an option and they recognise that some wheelchair users will transfer to a regular seat. The lounge or buffet cars can be universally designed, but sleeper cars, however, were not included in this research.  

A good article for anyone involved in the design of rail infrastructure. Lots of detailed technical information including restroom fittings, public address systems and emergency procedures. Diagrams of layouts help with design explanations. While this document is based on USA requirements, it has relevance elsewhere.

Some newer Australian long distance trains have embraced inclusive design for all passengers. The image is from Queensland Rail.

The Transportation section of this website has more articles, research and guides.

Train station platform edge with the words in yellow, "Mind the gap".

Towards user-centric transport in Europe

Woman with a baby stroller using the platform lift to get onto the raised bus stop platform .The bus stop is a tube shaped shelterTransportation researchers in Europe are seeking the best solutions for innovative and inclusive mobility. The Mobility 4EU project is all about the user perspective in different types of transport. It covers technological, social, legal and economic aspects of mobility and transportation. The project ended in March 2019. It resulted in several conference papers published in a 2020 book by SpringerLink titled Towards User-Centric Transport in Europe 2. This follows the 2019 publication under the same title, which has three chapters related to inclusion and universal design:

Mainstreaming the Needs of People with Disabilities in Transport Research argues mainstreaming disability should not exclude conducting disability-related transport research. 

Universal Design as a Way of Thinking about Mobility looks at the use of UD as a policy objective for transport policy using the Norwegian experience as an example. It’s also available on ResearchGate. 

Bus driver helps woman with her wheelie walkerOlder People’s Mobility, New Transport Technologies and User-Centred Innovation reports on findings from four focus groups examining mobility challenges and automated vehicles were also discussed. It’s also available on ResearchGate. 

There are other chapters on active mobility, car sharing, mobility as a service, and the door to door travel chain. 

 

Counting costs that don’t count

Road workers in hi-vis vests are laying bitumen. Counting costs don't count.
Workers repairing the road

Ever wondered why economic arguments seem to fall on stony ground even when they’ve been well researched and even asked for? Seems politicians’ personal experience counts more when decisions are being made. A Norwegian researcher wanted to find out why road-building priorities diverge from those suggested by cost-benefit analysis. It is likely that many other policy decisions are made in a similar way, not just road investments. That’s why sometimes counting costs don’t count.

Here is an excerpt from the findings about why factors other than cost criteria mean that counting costs don’t count:

Political institutions have created a kind of gift relationship in the road sector, with the state as donor and municipalities as recipients.

To the extent that the state cannot scrutinize all assumptions and calculations of traffic, costs and benefits, an information asymmetry arises and favours the local receivers.

In cases of local/national conflict of interest, some key politicians and other stakeholders at the donor side either have their own agendas (such as campaigning), or their loyalty is with the recipient rather than the donor (society).

It seems reasonable that elected representatives are less likely to vote in accordance with the benefit/cost ratios of projects the more sceptical they are to the method of CBA. When sceptical, they are apt to look for alternative decision support, even if several studies have found CBA results to be quite robust.

The intention has not been to argue that the benefit/cost ratio should be decisive when setting priorities among projects on classified roads, but rather to highlight circumstances that tend to push CBA results into the background. The principle of choosing projects with high benefit/cost ratio may be supplemented by so many other assessment criteria that the difference between professional and political judgement is dissolved.”

The title of the article is, Why don’t cost-benefit results count for more? The case of Norwegian road investment priorities. Published in Urban, Planning and Transport Research an open access article.

Abstract:

The starting point is that the benefit/cost ratio is virtually uncorrelated to the likelihood of a Norwegian classified road project entering the list of investments selected for the National Transport Plan. The purpose of the article is to explain what pushes cost-benefit results into the background in the prioritization process.

The reasons for their downgrading point to mechanisms that are at work not only in Norway. Explanatory factors are searched for in incentives for cost-ineffective action among planners, bureaucrats and national politicians, respectively, as well as in features of the planning process and the political system.

New data are used to show that the road experts’ list of prioritized projects changes little after submission to the national politicians, suggesting that the Norwegian Public Roads Administration puts little emphasis on its own cost-benefit calculations. Besides, it is shown that the petroleum revenues of the state do not provide a strong reason for neglecting cost-benefit accounts.

The overall contribution of the article is to offer a comprehensive explanation why professional and political authorities in Norway set road-building priorities diverging massively from those suggested by cost-benefit analysis.

Are UD and ID rivals?

a series of black icons on white background depicting people of all shapes and sizes, including a baby in a stroller, a person with a can and a wheelchair userFrom the Editor: This week I came across an article by John Harding who writes about rivalry between universal design and inclusive design. While I have encountered people who believe there are nuanced differences, I cannot agree that the concepts are rivals, academically or otherwise. A rivalry point of view is contrary to the work of advocacy groups striving for more inclusive societies. Indeed, “universal design” is cited in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability as the means by which to create inclusion. It is also cited by WHO guidelines for age-friendly cities.

Harding, in his dense academic paper, appears to base his argument on universal design being about the “widest range of users”, whereas inclusive design is about “offering everyone access”.  He then goes on to claim that universal design is “first generation” and inclusive design is “next generation”. 

Using a study of transportation in UK, Harding proposes that the “rivalry” between UD and ID hasn’t helped the cause for inclusion. I believe the barriers to inclusion are far more complex than terminology. However, terminology is very important to academics if they want to compare their work. 

Whether you use universal or inclusive, the aim is to cater to diversity, and that includes diverse ways of explaining universal/inclusive design for an inclusive world. Most academics use the terms interchangeably and include “Design for All”.

The paper is open access on ResearchGate. Have a look and see what you think. The title of the paper is “Agent based modelling to probe inclusive transport building design in practice”. 

It should be noted that John Harding is based in the UK where they have stuck by the “inclusive design” term throughout, whereas Europe has favoured Design for All, and most other countries have followed the UN Convention and use universal design. Most academics recognise the convergence of concepts rather than rivalry.

Jane Bringolf

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