Appropriate and convenient site entrances are essential for the independence and safety of building users.
Pedestrian site entrances
Making identification of the entrance easy reduces stress for first time visitors. Significant inconvenience can be caused to building users who find they are unable to use a site entrance due to its design, construction, condition, or the presence of obstacles such as advertising boards, or café dining near the entrance.
Many building users appreciate and need low gradient pathways on the approach to a site entrance and from there to their destination. Consideration of this need at the concept stage can be crucial to their comfortable use of the site.
Entry systems that need to be operated can be a barrier for a number of users. Such systems need to be easy to locate approach, understand and operate.
Where an intercom unit is routinely used, a person who is blind or has low vision may need to locate it or know it is there. Systems should be installed that automatically establish communication when it detects the presence of a person standing nearby.
Intercom systems that rely on aural and oral communication are not suitable for people with hearing or speech impairment and create problems for everyone in noisy environments.
- When deciding on site entrance locations, consider the topography and the distance to likely destination points.
- Entrances should be on a logical route from arrival points and visually, aurally and tactually recognisable.
- Provide information and signage for any restricted hours of admittance, location of through routes, and alternative entrances, and where assistance may be obtained.
- Ensure entry systems and pedestrian gates are easy to use and understand, and allow independent and unrestricted use by everyone. These should have contrasting colours to their background and be sited in places free of visual clutter and complexity.
- Self-closing mechanisms on gates should require the minimum amount of force and be routinely maintained.
- Necessary intercom systems should have visual back-up to permit their use by people with speech, language and hearing difficulties and be positioned in a suitable acoustic environment.
Road and pavement layouts should be simple, logical, direct and consistent.
Reducing pedestrian travel distances can be important in maintaining independence. Direct and easy to understand routes are of benefit to everyone.
Logical and easy to follow routes which are presented in a consistent manner are essential, especially for first time visitors.
It can be tiring for some users to walk any distance and resting places are essential. These should be protected from the weather where possible.
- Locate site features and building entrances in logical positions to provide a simple and understandable layout.
- Prioritise pedestrian routes over vehicle and bicycle routes to promote a safe and supportive walking environment.
- Provide pedestrian routes on both sides of the road to give building users choices and reduce the need to cross.
- Provide a clear pedestrian route adjacent to building lines with appropriate tactile and visual information provided to locate adjacent features such as bus stops, road crossings and taxi stands.
- Where local issues such as heritage, tree preservation, existing buildings or site stability constrain alterations or improvements, mitigate accessibility and usability issues by providing identifiable alternatives whilst minimising travel distances.
- Select location of accessible parking on the site to minimise required level changes and travel distance to building entrances.
- Keep route designs for differing functions consistent throughout the site.
Building Code requirement
Building Code clause D1 Access routes:
D1.3.1 Access routes shall enable people to: (a) safely and easily approach the main entrance of buildings from the apron or construction edge of a building.
Pavement - ease of use
Pavements should be easy to use and suit all expected pedestrian situations.
Pavements need to be wide enough and provide a continuous accessible path of travel for all expected foot traffic in both directions. They should also accommodate use by mobility scooters and wheelchair users, people with assistance dogs or using long white canes, those with luggage or buggies, and families and crowds.
At bus stops, taxi drop-off spaces and in front of shops, the pavement width should be increased as stationary pedestrians can be expected to restrict through routes.
Where a reasonable clear width of a pedestrian route is not able to be maintained, passing places need to be provided at reasonable intervals and located within sight of each other.
Gradients and travel distances on pavements should be kept as low as possible.
Cross falls may misdirect wheelchairs and buggies and should be kept as low as possible. These should be limited to that required to prevent ponding of water.
Pavement finishes should be chosen to assist their identification and use. Rough textures can be difficult to navigate with long canes or restricted gait. Wheelchair users can be particularly troubled by surfaces such as gravel or bark chips that are not firm.
People who are blind or have low vision may only be able to locate designated pedestrian routes by way of tactile, body position and strongly contrasting cues. Their recognition of the edge of a footpath may only be by stepping off a full height kerb or detecting it with their cane.
Where pedestrian routes are next to landscaping it is important that they remain free of vegetation overgrowth, falling items such as leaves and fruit and bark chips.
Wheelchair users may find the pavement gradients on dropped kerbs difficult. Where dropped kerbs are not needed, re-instating the kerb and levelling the pavement can be of benefit.
Resting places and shelter
People with mobility impairment may need to rest and be sheltered from the weather if distances to be travelled are too great. Many building users would also appreciate the availability of routes under cover.
- Ensure that pavements are easy to recognise, of adequate width, have the lowest possible gradient with cross-falls minimised to that required to avoid ponding.
- Provide passing places where pavements are not wide enough for normal use.
- Ensure that paths and pavements are smooth, firm and slip resistant.
- Ensure that vegetation next to pavements will not grow over pathways or drop debris onto them.
- Provide visual and tactile warning and guidance where this would assist people who are blind or have low vision.
- Provide suitable seating clear of but adjacent to pedestrian circulation routes.
- Organise re-instating the kerb where dropped kerbs are no longer necessary.
- Wherever possible, provide pedestrian routes that are protected from the weather.
Building Code requirement
Building Code clause D1 Access routes:
D1.3.3 Access routes shall: (c) have a safe cross fall, and safe slope in the direction of travel.
Pavements should be safe to use.
Pedestrians need to be aware of hazards in sufficient time to be able to avoid or negotiate them safely.
Pathways and circulation routes should be easy to understand, and well-lit at night. Avoid hidden areas that may raise concerns for lone walkers.
Full height kerbs are important for people who are blind or have low vision as they are the single most reliable cue in detecting the edge of the pathway and the road. They can, however, present a barrier for people such as wheeled mobility device users who need step-free routes.
There will always be a need for obstacles such as lamp standards near pedestrian routes. These should be minimised wherever possible, located away from paths of travel, apparent visually, and detectable by a long cane. Preferably they should be located on the kerb side as the building line or mid footpath is the preferred walking route for those with vision impairment.
Pedestrians, especially those who have mobility, balance, hearing or vision impairment, feel unsafe in areas where vehicles, cycles, and scooters use the same area as pedestrians. Where pedestrians cannot easily be separated from vehicles, designs should limit the speed of vehicle travel.
Where landscaped areas are adjacent to pathways their surface finishes could be carried or blown on to the pavement and cause problems for building users.
Sunken gardens or pits usually have the slope falling to the garden to catch rainwater from the paths. There should be a flat area of garden adjacent to the path to give a tolerance for error and correction.
The difference between pavements and vehicle paths needs to be easy to distinguish. For instance, where there is no kerb upstand, people who are blind or have low vision and especially long cane users, will not be able to discern safe pedestrian areas. For these people there needs to be a means of identifying the different areas.
Patterns and the mixed use of different finishes can result in misinterpretation (e.g. that the pavement is stepped) and cause visual discomfort and confusion. As far as is possible, the environment should minimise the risk that pedestrians might slip, trip, fall, come into contact with obstacles, feel unsafe or be confused. Pedestrians should be able to discern the edge of the accessible route.
Damage or repairs to pavements can pose a hazard for pedestrians. This work can sometimes take a long time to complete, may block the path of travel and be protected with limited guarding if the work is of a short term duration.
Underground services and drainage
Underground cables and delivery pipes are often routed under pavements even when there is an adjacent soft landscaping area. When closed, inspection covers are a slip and trip hazard and dangerous if left open and unprotected. Work on these services inevitably results in pavements being closed off which can present difficulties for building users. For instance, wheelchair users may be prevented from using dropped kerbs and therefore not be able to cross the road.
Rainwater gullies present a trapping hazard for heels, wheels and sticks. They should not be positioned where building users are likely to come into contact with them.
- Avoid designs where pedestrians have to share routes with vehicles, cycles or scooters. Where separation is not possible, restrict the speed of such vehicles to closer to walking speed and give priority to pedestrians. A separate pedestrian route is recommended.
- Provide permanent barriers where pedestrian density, site conditions or the exposure of children to traffic could result in injury.
- Provide adequate lighting to promote personal safety and allow visual identification of hazards at night.
- Specify pavements to encourage pedestrians to remain on the walking surface.
- Ensure there is a full height kerb between pavements and vehicle paths.
- Ensure surfaces are continuous, consistent, slip-free, drained, even, with gentle slopes, with minimal variations in level and no trip hazards.
- Specify surface finishes that last as long as possible with maintenance able to be undertaken as quickly as possible and away from pedestrian routes.
- To meet the needs of people who are blind or have low vision, specify tactile ground surface finishes, landscaping, or other environmental design features that are detectable by a cane, and visually contrast to identify routes and hazards.
- Select surface materials that reduce the potential for glare from bright sunlight or light sources such as street lights.
- Provide edge protection where there is a chance that someone may miss a change in level.
- Ensure that adjacent loose surfaces such as bark chips are not blown onto pavements.
- Locate any required obstacles such as street furniture and bollards outside the required width of the pathway and ensure they are permanently fixed and contrast visually against the background. Keep the building line clear of these obstacles.
- Avoid the use of chains and ropes between bollards.
- Wherever possible, fix signage to buildings to reduce the need for street furniture.
- Position rainwater gullies away from pedestrian routes with openings as small as possible and orientated perpendicular to the likely direction of travel.
- Locate inspection covers and underground mains services and drainage away from pedestrian routes.
- Provide accessible alternative routes when normal routes are unavailable due to repairs. Ensure turning spaces are available for larger mobility aides and the width along the length is suitable for mobility aid users.
Building Code requirement
Building Code clause D1 Access routes:
D1.3.3 Access routes shall: (d) have adequate slip-resistant walking surfaces under all conditions of normal use.