Design and Build Separation from pedestrians

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  2. Design and Build
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The devil is in the details, like the curbstone on the edge of a cycle path. How to make a delimitation that would be clear and at the same time safe for all users?

Pedestrians and cyclists are both vulnerable road users, and are sometimes even treated as one group by less experienced designers.  But cyclists do not like to ride among pedestrians, pedestrians do not like to walk among cyclists. Therefore, a clear distinction between spaces allocated for different forms of active mobility is often useful, especially in urban settings. Because pedestrians do not pay much attention to road signs and some of them cannot see them at all, the distinction needs to be based on infrastructure, not on signs only. Typically, this includes:

  • Different surface – asphalt for cyclists, concrete slabs for pedestrians;
  • Height difference – cycling path slightly lower than footpath.

Height difference gives a very clear signal of changing territory, but can be risky for cyclists who attempt to avoid a collision with another road user or simply make a mistake.  Higher curbs can also create danger of hitting it with a pedal, as well as increase the severity of injuries in case of a fall. But there is a solution: make the curb a slope instead of vertical setoff.

Although there are many good examples of such separation in the Netherlands, the CROW’s “Design manual for bicycle traffic” is somewhat vague on the details. Practically the slope is usually done by a trapezoid curb, with height difference between 5 and 11 cm and angle of inclination between 15 and 30 degrees (slope ratio between 1:4 and 1:2).  According to field tests conducted by the City of Vancouver, a 50 mm beveled curb with a 1:3 incline (5 cm height difference over 15 cm of horizontal space) got the most positive feedback from cyclists, pedestrians, vision-impaired pedestrians, and wheelchair users. This is high enough to form a noticeable difference both for cyclists and pedestrians, but also with very low risk of cyclists falling when riding into the curb or hitting it with a pedal. Details like this make cycle infrastructure both self-explanatory and forgiving.

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