Multi-use & Accessibility

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Multi-use Paths

Trying to make one path suitable for everyone might be difficult to achieve, the main point to consider is how to allow as many different activities to take place safely. This section will help you decide how to provide multi-use paths.

shared use pathOne aspect of developing paths that raises a lot of issues and questions is how to accommodate different activities on one path. These 'multi-use' paths could be for walkers, cyclist and horse riders, however, the right of access, established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, applies to people of all ages and abilities so your paths must be as barrier free as possible. People may use your path to access water for canoeing or windsurfing. Roller bladers, para-gliders, kite surfers, mountain boarders and many others may also use a path. It is also important to note that Equality Act 2010 means that there must be reasonable provision for people with disabilities.

When considering multi-use the most important thing to think about is how people access the path. Features such as stiles and many access control designs can pose an impassable barrier for many path users who could otherwise use the path quite happily. The key principal is that any new features you add to a path - gates, surfacing, drainage should be as least restrictive as possible. So regardless of what you are planning in terms of path construction any access controls you put in must be accessible to as wide a range of people as possible. If there are existing restrictive access controls, and especially stiles, then you should include measures to remove these barriers. If full accessibility is required the following are the only solutions:

1. Provide a gap - 1.5m width is ideal as it allows all non motorised users and stops cars or other large vehicles from getting onto the path.

2. If stock proofing is required provide a two way opening, self closing gate. There are a number of proprietary designs available which are robust, have easy to use latches, are easy to install and require minimal maintenance. Ideally use a 1.5m wide gate but if space is restricted a 1.2m wide gate may be acceptable.

Any other option will result in a barrier for some users. Kissing gates are seen as the next level of accessibility but even large designs will stop horses, large push chairs, most wheelchairs and bicycles. If you are prepared to have a padlock and key system then these users can get access but such systems are difficult to manage and control and whilst fine for local users are less convenient for visitors. 

Conflict  There is a lot of discussion at the moment on the issue of illegal use of paths by motorbikes, quad bikes and mini bikes. Providing a barrier that stops these users will also prevent the majority of legitimate users using a path. Even if an effective motorbike barrier is installed, illegal users will inevitably vandalise adjacent fences in order to gain access to the path. It is far more effective to use a fully accessible gate or control and rely on the resulting increased path use than to police the path and deter illegal use. Identify hotspots and encourage local police to make a few high profile visits to discourage use. In many cases illegal motorbike users are local people (often young) who are simply looking for an area to carry out there activity and only use paths because there is nowhere else. Meet up with them and encourage them to set up there own group who can find an appropriate area to use.

Construction  In terms of path construction, you don't necessarily have to make all paths wide and hard-surfaced. If your project is very small and has only a low budget then providing accessible entrances onto a path is usually enough. If you are planning some actual path construction, then the rule of least restrictive provision applies. Any new surface should ideally be at least 1.5m wide. This may seem a lot but a 1.5m path on the ground is actually very low key and once vegetation starts to re-grow in the verges it will seem a lot narrower. 1.2m wide is seen as an absolute minimum width but note that even a small amount of vegetation encroachment will make this impassable for wheelchairs, large prams and bicycles with trailers or trikes. In terms of actual surface type, typical unbound surfaces such as whin or granite dust, road planings, stone chips etc. are fine for most cases. Sealed surfaces are generally only used for areas of very high use and in urban or urban fringe areas.

Gradients  When you encounter gradients try to avoid the use of steps as these will be an impassable barrier to many people, even quite active walkers!. Ideally gradients should be less than 1:12. Note that gradients steeper than this will also cause erosion problems for dust or gravel surfaces. If steps are the only solution follow the good practice given in the Fieldfare Countryside for all standards.

General Considerations  When considering a network of paths it is usually reasonable to try to make any key routes or links fully accessible. Other routes should be as barrier free as possible and follow the principles of least restrictive access.

Please see the Fieldfare Countryside for All guide for details on widths, gradients, access control designs and management principals for disabled access or contact the Paths for All Technical Officer.