THE DESIGN OF STREETS WITH OLDER PEOPLE IN MIND
One of a series of street environment design guides
Description of the element
This Design Guide provides information on signage within the neighbourhood environment including both directional signs and information signs.
The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (TSRGD) is a regulatory document which details every traffic sign prescribed for use in the UK. Compliance with the TSRGD is mandatory.
Further advice on the use of signs is contained in the Traffic Signs Manual (TSM) which gives advice on the on the application of traffic signs in common situations. Supplementary advice is also published by the DfT in Local Transport Notes (LTN’s), and Traffic Advisory Leaflets (TAL’s). Compliance with the TSM, LTN’s and TAL’s is not mandatory because these documents provide advice and guidance only.
No signs are required by the TSRGD. Its purpose is to provide regulation on how signs must be used once it has been decided that signs are necessary. DfT (2007) advises that ‘designers should start from a position of having no signs, and introduce them only where they have a clear function .. Street layouts, geometries and networks should aim to make the environment self explanatory to all users. Features such as public art, planting, and architectural style can assist navigation while possibly reducing the need for signs’.
What older people tell us they prefer and why
Street Name Signs
86% of our participants find street name signs helpful. They commented that street name signs can be difficult to find and it would be helpful if they were:
“placed on both sides of the street”
“positioned at a suitable height so they could not be vandalized / subject to graffiti”
“positioned not too high so they can be easily read”
“free from obstructions such as street greenery”
“reflective so they can be read at night”
“simple and straightforward”
“clear lettering and colour contrast with the background.”
Sign posts with pointers
The was overwhelming support for the ‘usefulness’ of signs with pointers with 82.5% of participants confirming that they are helpful especially as a pedestrian and in areas of unfamiliarity. Suggestions for improvement were:
“placing the pole at the side rather than in the middle of the pavement”
“ensuring that the pointers could not easily be turned towards the wrong direction by vandals or similar”
“providing an indication of walking distance or time it takes to get to the destination”
“avoiding too much information on the pointer”
“positioning the pointers at a suitable height such that they are not a potential hazard (eg walking into the pointer) versus placing the pointer sufficiently low such that it can be easily read”
“You are here”
There was less enthusiasm from our participants for the usefulness of both ‘You are here’ type maps and Information Boards with only 50% of participants being supportive of them. The main criticisms were that generally there was too much information on them; the text size was often small so they were difficult to read; it was confusing to have a combination of symbols and text, and there was little support for information being provided in more than one language (see photo). Additionally there was criticism of information boards because “this doesn’t direct me anywhere, it just advertises what is available then it’s up to me to find them”.
Only 19% of our participants thought a tourist information sign (without any accompanying text) was useful. Most participants felt the use of a single colour made the sign indistinctive and it was difficult to relate the symbol to the function of tourist information without any accompanying text. Whilst everyday information symbols may have widespread meaning for some people, the use of accompanying text is considered important.
Findings from the physical audit survey
The quality of signage in a participant’s street is mixed. Whilst 48% of signage is in good condition, only 43% was surveyed as fair, with 9% being poor. Where signage was ‘fair to poor’ the issues were around maintenance either because of vandalism and grafitti or because signs were obstructed with foliage etc. Within the wider neighbourhood environment most signage (87%) was easy to read, and easy to understand (90%).
Design which makes it easier for people to work out where they are, and where they are going would seem to be important for older people. ‘Not only does it minimise the length of journeys by avoiding wrong turns, for some it may make journeys possible to accomplish in the first place’ (DfT 2007). We further recommend:
- Keep consistence in the colour, shape, typeface and materials of signage to make it easily detectable, recognisable and readable by older people.
- Use appropriate size in texts for the street name signage with appropriate colour contrast in the signage itself and between the signage and the surroundings.
- Provide symbols and accompanying texts on maps and information boards avoiding information clutter to benefit not only older people but people with learning difficulties.
- Provide walking distance or time it takes to get to the destination wherever possible in sign with pointers.
- Although there is no common standard for where in the street signs should be positioned, preferably provide signage on both sides of the streets, at a suitable height and making sure that its view is not obstructed by vehicles or hidden by greenery. In addition, make sure that the signage do not obstruct the pedestrian flow or clutter the places.
- Keep consistency in standards and maintenance of signage to disencourage graffiti and vandalism. Older people are put off from using spaces by vandalism and graffiti.
Where to find further information
DfT (various dates) Traffic Signs Manual, London, TSO and HMSO
DfT (1994). Local Authority Note 1/94 The Design and Use of Directional Informatory Signs, London, HMSO.
DfT (2002), Inclusive Mobility: a guide to best practice on access to pedestrian and transport infrastructure. London. Department for Transport. Available online at http://www.dft.gov.uk/transportforyou/access/peti/inclusivemobility or free from Enquiry Services, DfT, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria St, London SW1E 6DE. Tel: 020 7944 8300, Fax 0207 944 6589, Email: email@example.com
DfT (2005), Traffic Advisory Leaflet 06/05 Traditional Direction Signs, London, DfT
DfT (2007) Manual for Streets, London, Thomas Telford Publishing http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/manforstreets/
Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2002, Statutory Instrument 2002 No 3113, London, TSO.
This Design Guide is first printed in 2007 and is protected by Copyright Notice © Rita Newton and Marcus Ormerod, I’DGO Inclusive Design for Getting Outdoors.
Corresponding author of this Design Guide:
Rita Newton, SURFACE Inclusive Design Research Centre, The University of Salford, Maxwell Building, The Crescent, Salford, M5 4WT, UK. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org