Make it useable...and keep it useable

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Many of the features along the Oatridge College demonstration path show how to think about minimising barriers to access, trying to find the least restrictive option in any situation. Things like gates and steps are obvious potential barriers, but making the countryside as accessible as possible also means being aware of subtle features like the cross fall (the slope across the path surface). Gentle slopes may look easy to use but they can make access difficult for people with even mild mobility problems.

two paths different gradients

The two path lines (in the photo above) to and from the woodland at the demonstration path have different gradients along, and across, the paths. The path on the left climbs a slope in a pleasing line, but its gradient is steeper than 5% (1:20), and so it is not easily accessible to everyone. It will be a physical barrier to some people. Where a path's slope is 5% (1:20) or steeper it is defined as a ramp, and it should comply with the recommendations for ramps, here. The path to the right, although a straight line, crosses the side slope on a less steeper gradient, and is more accessible, meeting the relevant Countyside for All standard for a rural and working landscape. Careful choice of route on the ground makes all the difference.

Providing access for as wide a range of users as possible is not just something to consider during the planning and design stages of a path project. You need to think about keeping the path useable and safe, and to start planning a regular programme of inspection and routine maintenance for the path surface and its associated structures, such as seats and signage, well before you build or install them. The aim is to check regularly that they are useable and safe, and to ensure they are maintained and repaired promptly as necessary.

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh