Pedestrians are like water

They walk wherever they please, and at almost any cost.

Would you rather go around, say 500 m, or would you gnaw yourself up a steep hill?

This is the way up to Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.


It’s a print screen pic from Google Maps.

See the little brown-greyish thing I’ve outlined?
That’s the path for lazy pedestrians with enough lung capacity and fairly good legs.
Children, elderly or other more or less disabled persons go around.

The path (or whatever you call it) ends on the quite nice road that goes all the way up.

I’m one of the lazy pedestrians, I must admit. It was steeper than I estimated, but I would choose that way up absolutely every time.


December brought snow. And my point is still valid.


Even though it’s quite a bit of snow covering the path through the bushes, people still use it.
They have to climb up 50 cm before stomping through fluffy snow, which at every second threatens to enter the shoes.

And still, people prefer this solution.

I’m currently working with universal design. Mostly outdoor.
I’ve attended lectures, discussed with almost everybody and studied the subject on my own.
This is a field of expertize that is in development, and things that was commonly accepted five years ago, might be outdated, and even considered discriminating today.

One of the topics that always comes up, is the social stigma associated with stairs.
According to some, the very nature of stairs is stigmatizing, because everybody is not able to use them. 
The essence of these discussions is that ramps are considered universal design, whereas stairs are not. 

I see the point, and I see the need for ramps. I do, however, also see the need for stairs.

For a ramp to be functional, it needs more space than a single flight of stairs. People with functional legs will still use the shortest way up or down if possible.

I’ve seen some pedestrian/cyclist subways that are practically never used, because they are in fact detours.  People running across the motorway, because that’s the shortest way, for instance. It’s total madness, but that’s water for you. Always taking the line of least resistance.

This fact might make it quite tricky to make solutions that will satisfy everybody.
The universally designed alternative is supposed to be considered the main solution, or as an equal solution to the less universally designed one.
If 90 %  are using the grass slope, and 10 % uses the ramp, the slope will eventually be considered the main solution.

I would very much like to know how I can plan things, and sort of “forget” the “universally”-bit, and still come up with a solution that includes everybody.

Got a great tip for me?


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