… Inclusive Design
The problem with a blog about public toilets is that I can’t just write about anything – it’s meant to be loo-related.
My current strop about my walk to work relates to pedestrian-friendly cities, urban design and inclusive design, as do public toilets, so I reckon that’s enough to tie it in. For anyone who disagrees, I’ll add a loo-count*
Yesterday I made a map of my walk to work, showing the pedestrian crossings at crossroads (and one busy side street). Green is a pedestrian crossing at a traffic light, red is no crossing, and yellow is a zebra crossing.
I’ve been walking to the Royal College of Art on and off since I was a student there in 2005, but I don’t remember being such a grump about it back then. I just enjoyed the walk, so much that I wanted to give other people the confidence to explore the city on foot, which led to my rather out-of-date final project (now in the cellar).
So what’s my problem?
The north-side of Battersea Bridge is a very busy crossroads. In the morning, northbound traffic coming over the bridge meets eastbound traffic along the embankment, all aiming for central London.
Just as cars are limited to a few busy bridges to cross the Thames, so are pedestrians. So northbound walking-peeps and west-east people (such as those using the Thames Path) are also trying to cross here.
There’s no pedestrian crossing across any of the 4 arms of the crossroads (joining Battersea Bridge and Beaufort Street with Cheyne Walk and the Thames Path). There are, however, lots of cars turning left or right on each set of lights. So if I’m crossing from the bridge to the north side, I have 2 options:
1 – Look at the cars turning off the bridge, wait for one not indicating left, and cross the road hoping that they’re not just lazy indicators.
2 – errr get hit by a car. Not really an option.
I’ve never been hit. I’ve never even nearly been hit. I guess for me this ‘works’, if that’s how you’re measuring it, but I don’t look forward to it. It’s seems really foolish.
I work at the RCA as a researcher at the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design. We do inclusive design work – “an approach to designing that includes the whole population – all ages and all abilities”.
Inclusive design has ruined my life. Or at least my walk.
Since working in inclusive design I don’t just think about my ability to cross the road.
Now I think,
“..well I can get across, but what about people less able? What if I had a pushchair? Do I want to push my child into the traffic?”
“…what if I wasn’t watching the traffic lights? What if I couldn’t see that far? What if I was a tourist? What if this was a new junction to me, and didn’t know cars might turn left into me? What if I was distracted? Or got confused?”
(Those last two still apply to me.)
So now I can’t cross there at all without an overwhelming sense of doom.
I’m not one for making grumpy maps without first doing something more constructive.
In July 2010 I contacted TfL who manage the junction. Here’s a pdf link to our correspondence.
Then recent Twitter-links to blogs like this one inspired me to put my ever-growing frustration down on paper.
Designing Better Streets for People with Low Vision
Last year one of the Helen Hamlyn Centre researchers looked at designing better streets for people with low vision.
I really liked that project. The researcher, Ross, took walks with people with visual impairments, including guide dog users and long cane users, and mapped the problems that they encountered with the streets.
Being able to see through the eyes of someone with different needs (so to speak) is not something many of us get to experience.
His (or rather his users’) observations of what did or didn’t work have stuck with me. For example, how decorative tonal changes in paving may look nice, but can confuse and delay users who have to stop and check whether there is a level change – just so that the rest of us can enjoy a different shade of grey!
His 20-page illustrated inclusive design guide, in partnership with CABE, can be downloaded here.
I like this approach: telling people about the experiences of others so that they make better decisions, rather than prescribing a set of guidelines with no explanation.
Consequently I’m basically cribbing it for our inclusive design guide to publicly-accessible toilets, due to be published in September. (apparently).
Told you I’d link this back to toilets!
*public toilet count from RCA to my house – hmm… none. Suggest 10-minute detour to the Natural History Museum, or the very nice Community Toilet in Chelsea Town Hall