The Living Streets Project on ‘bus stop bypasses’ published after 2 years of research

The Living Streets charity has revealed their findings on bus stops and continuous footways to a wider audience in hopes to set in motion a bigger discussion about inclusivity.

According to charity’s webpage with links to the full report, the scope of this project was to address the broad question about inclusivity of street designs in Scotland. In the result, two pdf versions of the study have been published: “Inclusive design at continuous footways” (October 2023) and “Inclusive design at bus stops with cycle tracks” (March 2024).

The charity has carried out a detailed-study site work across Scotland, England and Wales, breaking down the infrastructure into “complex environment” and “simple environment”. Categorising streets this way helped to thoroughly observe the overall footfall as well as pedestrian behaviour. For every investigation, the approach was standardised and tailored to correspond with busier or quieter sites, allowing for more accurate results.

Video footage was also used for prolonged periods of time up to 3 days to observe such details as whether pedestrians turned their heads before crossing, changed their speed, and which routes they took through the site. One noted advantage of this approach is physical absence of the observer whose presence could have had altered the way pedestrians behave on sites where footfall is normally very low. A summary of the analysis was included in the report as graphs and photos with supporting comments that explain the figures.

Both versions conclude that good communication between disabled groups and designers is important for increasing the quality of street inclusivity. In particular, one report acknowledges that some organisations representing disabled people may pursue the same goals but are divided in how to achieve them. The second report agrees on this and calls for bringing all groups together to make adjustments based “on equalities grounds”. As of now, there is an evident lack of connection between existing designs and needs of disabled people.

To illustrate that disconnection, multiple examples of poor design were included in the report with comments. Moreover, the charity has met with professional informants, conducting several interviews to deepen their understanding of a list of concerns, for example experiences of blind and partially sighted people with the bus stop bypasses (also known as “floating bus stops”). Bus stop bypasses and similar sites are among the most disputed arrangements.

On the one hand, blind and partially sighted people tend to avoid those areas because of fear of collision leading to exclusion. On the other, street designers suggest that a balance of risks needs to be maintained. By that they mean the risk of some pedestrians being excluded versus some cyclists being killed. This dispute is challenging to resolve mainly because of a lack of evidence of collisions actually occurring, although it may be suggested that bad incidents haven’t occurred yet simply because the demographics that is more likely to be involved in them tend to avoid those sites altogether.

To continue reading the full report for a detailed analysis with graphs and images, please follow the link: https://livingstreets.org.uk/inclusivedesign