Confident crossings

PDF Print

< Back to Oatridge College demonstration path

A handrail is an important part of a bridge. It needs to ensure people using the bridge cannot fall off, but also make them feel safe and secure. So how high should it be? As with so many other aspects of path and bridge design, the answer to this apparently simple question is, 'it depends'.

glentrool bridge handrails

The key question to think about is, 'who is going to be using the bridge?' Various organisations recommend handrail heights for different users that range from just 1000mm for wheelchair users to 1800mm for mounted horse riders. But those standards are not fixed. If the drop below the bridge is not very high, 1500mm can be enough for people on horseback. The design and appearance of the bridge are important too. A handrail 1800mm high might be fine for someone riding a horse, but for a pedestrian it could feel very enclosed. There are practical considerations as well. The higher the rail, the stronger the fixings have to be. Making them robust enough for a rail 1800mm high is quite a challenge.

The best approach is to keep the handrail to the minimum height needed to do its required job. The decision is based on a risk assessment, taking account of factors such as the likely users, the span and width of the bridge, the drop below it (the hazard), the consequences of a fall (the risk) and the remoteness of the site. Other factors that can be important are the cost, the time and effort involved in different solutions, the environment and aesthetics.

Find out more...

You will find more information about handrail height, design and fixing in icon Path Bridges Guide: Section 4.4, in more detail. The Guide's Technical Sheet 6.8 has a table of suggested heights for different situations, as well as detailed specifications for handrail post dimensions and spacing, and handrail fixing.

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