Access to routes is part of the Sustrans traffic-free routes and greenways design guide. It provides an overview of access points, access controls and their removal, protecting accessibility and agricultural crossings.
- It is important to protect access to traffic-free routes. But this should not exclude legitimate users
- Livestock controls can be installed where necessary
9.1 Access points
Access points are an important element of traffic-free routes. They offer the following benefits:
- Generate intrigue and welcome people to the traffic-free route.
- Improve the amenity of an area.
- Provide an opportunity to incorporate the history and heritage of an area into a traffic-free route.
- Discourage / prevent illegitimate use of the route.
Access points should not have any unacceptable visual impact on the amenity of an area. Designers should therefore consider scale, materials and colour carefully. It is critical for designers and planners to engage the community throughout the design process.
Designers should aim to work with local artists, urban designers and schools to produce designs for access points. Consideration could be given to running design competitions to encourage community participation.
Access point designs should look to capture local history or features that are unique to an area. In doing this, the community can be proud of a feature that they have helped to develop and install. This approach will also provide opportunities for younger members of the community and visitors to learn about the area.
There are no established design requirements for access points. Each feature should be unique and reflect the character of the area in which it is located.
When designing access points, the general principles and design requirements of this guide must be applied.
Designers should ensure that designs address inclusivity, stakeholder engagement, width, visibility and alignment.
Access point to a section of Avenue Verte running from Dieppe to Forges-les-Eaux, Frane, By Nick.x5d - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15061793
Access points can be used to reduce user speed, as well as discourage access from illegitimate users, such as motor vehicles.
The image below is an example of an access point where opportunities to change the path alignment are constrained due to an embankment. Staggered panels have been used to control user speed and protect access. In this case, the panels have incorporated artwork and route numbering.
Access point incorporating artwork on NCN 78.
The introduction of access points will need to consider whether vehicle access is required along the route. This could be for maintenance reasons, or for emergency vehicles.
Where staggered access points are used, each panel can be installed as a gate. One or both panels can then be unlocked and opened to enable access by vehicles.
Opening gates on Greenfield Valley Path, Holywell, Flintshire.
Designers must fulfil their duties under the Equality Act 2010 when designing access points. They must ensure that routes remain accessible to all users following the introduction of access points. A poorly designed access point can serve to exclude users from routes. Particularly where designers place too much emphasis on preventing access by motorised vehicles.
Staggered access points usually incorporate width restrictions to prevent access by motorised vehicles. Without due consideration, these can serve to exclude some wheelers, horse riders and those using adaptive bikes. Any width restriction through a staggered access point should be no less than 1.5m.
Designers should also consider the travelled path of all users passing through the access point. They should ensure that enough width is maintained at all times and no point restrictions below 1.5m are introduced.
When designing staggered access points, it is best practice to locate the first panel / gate on the nearside of the path. This will encourage a greater speed reduction before users are required to change their direction. The panels / gates themselves do not have to overlap. This can cause issues for some wheelers, horse riders and those using adaptive bikes.
Each access point location will be unique. Designers should consider how the introduction of features would affect accessibility. The dimensions provided in Section 9.1.7 will provide a starting point for designers when introducing staggered panels. But consideration must be given towards the application of a swept path assessment.
This assessment could be undertaken using a number software packages. These packages use scaled design vehicles, such as an adaptive bike, that can be driven through a design on screen. This will assist designers in understanding where conflict points may arise.
An alternative approach would be to set out an access point feature using temporary spray paints or traffic cones. Designers can then assess the trial feature to understand where conflict points may occur.
The advantage of this approach is that designers can assess the level of comfort and complexity of moving through an access point feature themselves. The local community and accessibility groups can also be involved in these trials as a part of stakeholder engagement.
Where designers feel that path users may have issues seeing access points during the hours of darkness, retroreflective features should be considered to highlight their position.
Where bollards are used at access points, a clear width of 1.5m should be provided between each bollard. Consideration should also be given towards providing reflective features on bollards. This will ensure they are visible during the hours of darkness.
Where access is required by vehicles, bollards should be removable. Removable bollards would require securing with padlocks or similar.
Removable timber bollards with reflective banding.
9.3 Protecting accessibility
Historically, access controls at interfaces with traffic-free routes have consisted of A-frames. A well-designed and installed A-frame can be effective in restricting access by motorcycles and other motorised vehicles.
But they have also served to exclude many users from routes. These include wheelers, users of adaptive or larger bikes and those with pushchairs. On this basis, A-frames must not be used as access control on routes.
Poor access control causes issues for all users, particularly wheelers and those using larger or adaptive bikes.
Many off-road type motorcycles could pass through the equestrian element of this type of access control.
9.4 Removal of poor access controls
There may be opportunities to address poor access controls through improvement schemes. Under these circumstances, designers should consider whether removing access controls entirely is feasible. Where this is not possible, designers should upgrade the access control using this guidance. Regardless of the approach, designers should consult with Accessibility Groups and other stakeholders.
9.5 Agricultural crossings and access
Traffic-free routes often have interfaces with, or are situated alongside, agricultural land. As such, landowners, tenants and farmers will sometimes need access across, or along, a traffic-free route. This access may be required to transport materials, vehicles or livestock between land and buildings. There are a number of solutions for providing agricultural crossings and access at routes.
Designers must understand the needs of landowners or tenants. This will ensure that the most appropriate crossing intervention is implemented. A poorly designed or specified crossing could serve to have a negative impact on agricultural operations. As well excluding users from the traffic-free route.
In some cases, farmers have been known to transport vehicles and livestock along a section of traffic-free route. This may be to access sections of land or agricultural buildings. These access requirements will be a key consideration during the design process and should be determined through a stakeholder engagement exercise.
Designers should seek legal counsel and planning advice when negotiating access requirements. This will assist in understanding the legal status of the route and any lawful requirement to provide access to stakeholders, landowners and tenants.
Designers should develop an understanding of the frequency and loadings imposed by agricultural movements. This will need to be considered when determining the specification of the path’s construction. The movement of heavy agricultural vehicles, such as tractors, will need a more substantial path specification. This will help to avoid path failure and damage. This can usually be provided with a reinforced concrete pad at the crossing.
Where adjacent landowners or stakeholders need access across or along a traffic-free route, designers must consider the frequency and timings of such movements to understand how this could serve to affect users of the route.
The simplest form of controlling the interface between the traffic-free route and an agricultural crossing is to implement a short-term temporary closure of the traffic-free route.
This can be achieved by fully opening the gates of the agricultural land, which then serve to close across the traffic-free route, as shown in the image below.
A drawback of this approach is that it can cause delay to users of the path, particularly where movement of agricultural vehicles, equipment or livestock is likely to take more than a few minutes. On this basis, designers should only specify this type of crossing where movements across the traffic-free route are low frequency and low duration.
Simple agricultural crossing with reinforced concrete pad.
Cattle grids are the most common method of livestock control. These are used along traffic-free routes to prevent and control access by livestock. Designers should note that this type of access control could serve to exclude users from the route.
Whilst well-designed cattle grids can provide unobstructed access for people on bikes. They can be problematic for other users, such as wheelers. Providing a gated access next to the cattle grid ensures that access for those on foot, or wheelers, can still be achieved.
However, the provision of gated access points must consider the access needs for those riding horses, as well as those who may be walking with double-width pushchairs. Otherwise, this form of livestock control could serve to exclude these users.
Gated Agricultural crossing with cattle grid.
Where horse riders use the route, the specification of any livestock control features needs to ensure access by horses can still be achieved. Further guidance can be found on the British Horse Society website.
Where cattle grids are specified, they should be at least 1.5m wide and constructed from galvanised flat bars. These will provide a greater level of comfort to wheeled users who choose to cross the grid, as opposed to the adjacent gated access.