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Guidelines say footpaths must remain level at driveways and minor side roads

— Continuous footpaths at driveways and minor side roads are a design feature that can improve pedestrian comfort, safety and priority.

Comment & Analysis: The Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets was published in 2015, and it is clear that “there should be no change in level to the pedestrian footway” along driveways and minor side streets. Seven years later, can councils please start to follow the rule?

Having a level footpath is better for walking, pushing prams, wheelchair users, as well as users of a range of mobility devices. It’s a small thing for somebody who’s fit and able. But, for somebody who’s not, the poor designs that are standard in Ireland makes it harder to get around and increases the likelihood of a fall or slip.

The design is also just nicer to walk along rather than going up or down or walking on an unlevel surface across a driveway.

This man is running in the cycle lane (and moving in when traffic approaches him). That’s how bad our footpaths are:

It’s worth saying first that the Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets is mandatory for councils to follow:

“DMURS replaces existing national design standards that will be used throughout all urban areas in Ireland when designing/upgrading roads and streets. The use of DMURS is mandatory for all road authorities (Circular RW 6/2013) and (PL 17/2013) applies to all Roads and Streets in Urban Areas (except where specified).”

dmurs.ie/what-is-dmurs

Here’s the section on how footpaths should, for pedestrian priority, be level across driveways and side streets:

“Designers should also ensure that the design of vehicle crossovers clearly indicates that pedestrians and cyclists have priority over vehicles. There should be no change in level to the pedestrian footway and no use of asphalt (which would incorrectly indicate vehicular priority across a footpath). Large or busy driveways (i.e. access to large car parks) may, however, be demarcated by a change in surface materials, such as contrasting paving and/or coloured concrete (see Figure 4.35). Designers should also refer to Section 5.4 – Entrances and Driveways of the National Cycle Manual (2011) for further design guidance where cycle tracks are present.”

Page 87, Design Manual for Urban Roads and Streets

The referenced section of the National Cycle Manual has a great example of a footpath going up and down at driveways (and I think gateways too):

The National Cycle Manual includes this example of an alternative approach — it can work with and without cycle tracks:

And it also has an example for where there’s a verge:

Footpath renewals can last for 20-30 years. So, councils need to start applying the guidelines to maintenance projects as well as full street redesigns.

Here’s an example of a wavy footpath in 2019 and the same footpath in 2021 after it was resurfaced as part of a substantial trench of works. The new layout has a larger section ramped from the driveway to the carriageway, this is clearly not the solution that DMURS calls for. The footpath here should be level for people walking along it.

This is a recent example of a raised table treatment across a side street in Ballina, Co Mayo — it’s a huge improvement from the previously setback location of the tactile slabs (located where the woman is in the first image below).

But it’s not a continuous footpath and does not follow the DMURS instruction about not using asphalt.

Continuous footpaths across driveways and minor side streets is a standard feature in places like the Netherlands.

Continuous footpaths are such a standard feature on Dutch streets and roads that you’ll find them when exiting main streets into residential areas across the country, as well as at the entrances to minor city centre streets, and a range of entrances such as at filling stations, sports grounds etc.

In the Netherlands, the most common solution to provide for a continuous footpath or cycle path is the use of a pre-cast “Dutch entrance kerb” (see images 1, 2, 3, 8, and 9). There is also a “British entrance kerb”, so, there’s no reason Ireland cannot adapt or adopt a similar kerb type.

The examples below also show different methods

DMURS is mandatory for both transport and housing. It is guidance from the Government departments covering both.

There has been talk of greater enforcement of the DMURS, but little sign of this happening to date. So, we continue to get non-continuous and wavy footpaths across street and road upgrade projects, maintenance programmes, and new housing.

So, even with new housing, we are getting poor designs such as this:

Retrofitting continuous footpaths will be harder than new builds but it’s an indictment that the older-car-centric design keeps cropping even with new builds.

With retro-fitting — both in terms of street redesigns and maintenance — there’s sometimes issues with driveways being lower than the footpath and carriageway. But the Dutch examples above provides ideas of some alternative designs, including having the footpath, cycle path and carriageway level, with a kerb separating the former two from the latter. Most of the time driveways are higher than or level with footpaths, such cases should not generally cause issues for retrofitting.

Continuous footpaths at driveways and minor side roads are a design feature that can improve pedestrian comfort, safety and priority. Can we please get on with making them standard?

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1 comment

  1. I am only reading this piece now.
    As an older person I find that some footway drop-downs at an entrance can take me by surprise so that I stumble. I really would like to see an end to the practice.
    How are road authorities permitted to ignore DMURS for both cycling and walking infrastructure?
    The ones that surprise me are often legacy ones where a premises has been redeveloped, but the entrance access across the footway still remains. An example of this is on Westland Row where TCD developed the Goldsmith Hall.
    It’s visible on Google Streetview.

    Reply

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