Provide clear, direct, and well-connected routes that are accessible by everyone (i.e. pedestrians, cyclists, and people pushing prams or wheelchairs).
Public accessways should:
Be as wide as possible - The walking route should be at least 1.8m wide or greater to avoid crowding on footpaths. Reducing crowdedness also reduces possible tension between the users of the space. This is particularly important in places with higher foot traffic, such as areas with bars, restaurants, or other entertainment venues.
Be straight - Direct connections provide clear access, making users feel safer by increasing their confidence in navigating the space. If it is not possible to design straight footpaths, the design should focus on increasing visibility through the path, especially around corners.
Have clear visibility through the space - People feel safer when they can get a clear understanding of their surroundings, including both the environment and other users. Designs should focus on increasing visibility around any corners or setbacks by manipulating landscaping, fencing or glazing.
Be well lit - Visibility is decreased when there is little light, therefore lighting can increase the perception of safety on dark paths. However, lighting should only be used on paths that are intended for use at night.
Provide multiple access points
Increase the accessibility through a site by including multiple entrance and exit points. This increases the flow of users through a space, contributing to increased visitation. User’s paths also become less predictable, and therefore more difficult to target for crime.
If a pathway is restricted to a single entrance and exit, it should:
- be the shortest possible route
- avoid curves or hidden spots
- increase visibility between users.
Design for all hours of the day
Design for safe access at all hours to and from public places and transportation hubs by providing:
- clear visibility throughout the route
- adequate lighting for when it is dark
- activating the space with vibrant local businesses and activities.
Clearly indicate main entrances to buildings
The main access to buildings should be easily identifiable from the street, including entrances to the public amenities, such as public toilets. This assists with pedestrian navigation and helps to activate the streets.
Other points to consider include:
- designing businesses for pedestrians.
- when on-site parking is provided, a separate entrance for pedestrians should be provided from the street as well.
- access to rear lanes or non-public areas should be controlled.
- the level of lighting, passive surveillance, wayfinding signage, active frontages on entrance points.
Retrofitting for safer connections
Wherever possible, apply design best practices to create the safest environments from the start. Retrofitting is a last resort – ideally, these conditions should not be built in the first place.
Alterations can be made to improve the safety of existing conditions; however, there is a danger of creating other undesirable consequences in their place. For example, two cul-de-sacs – entrapment spots – may be connected using pedestrian routes. However, such pathways come with their own set of safety challenges, as outlined in the following section.
Cul-de-sacs are generally discouraged as they are entrapment areas, with only a single access point. They limit connectivity, walkability, and the efficient access of public transport and emergency services to neighbourhoods. They are considered to have a negative impact on the social and physical wellbeing of residents, and are therefore considered unsafe.
If a cul-de-sac is retrofitted with a pedestrian accessway, common design difficulties include:
- multiple entrance and exit points are often not possible
- privacy concerns often mean that pathways are narrow and surrounded by opaque fences that cut off visibility from residents
- it is challenging to create pathways that have high visitation and clear visibility.
Alternatively, grid design is a layout option that inherently provides increased connectivity within neighbourhoods.
Benefits for pedestrians include:
- grid design creates a walkable environment that provides more route options, shorter distances between locations, and avoids the need for narrow walkways.
Benefits for vehicles include:
- the increased connectivity allows for a more even distribution of traffic, therefore reducing congestion.
Laneways and pedestrian accessways
Ideally, a good design has connectivity built in from the beginning and does not need pedestrian accessways. Existing accessways are often narrow, surrounded with high solid fences, and little frequented. They are perceived as unsafe environments and are commonly prone to graffiti and vandalism.
If pedestrian accessways cannot be avoided, they must comply with Section 5.4 of the Auckland Transport Code of Practice, and should be:
- As short as possible, with a maximum length of 70m
- 8m wide with a 3m paved footpath (with the rest being grass)
- Visible from end to end from a height of 1.5m, to accommodate the height of an average adult
- Well-lit according to AS/NZS 1158. Less frequented routes are an exception – the decision may be made to not light such paths to discourage use after dark. This needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Access to laneways or connectors should be controlled when:
- Limited or no public activity is expected. For example, a 24/7 through-site links should consider active monitoring and sufficient lighting for the decreased usage during the night.
- Safer routes are available.
Rear and service lanes
Certain developments, such as terrace housing or retail blocks, often require rear or service lanes for access to garages and refuse areas. These lanes often come with problems similar to those of pedestrian accessways and they are often perceived as unsafe.
To improve the conditions of rear and service lanes:
- indicate clearly that it is a semi-private space for the residents only
- maximise opportunities to see and be seen by increasing the visibility of the space to other people
- use lighting to increase visibility of the space at all hours of the day
- use landscaping and quality materials to create visibility and foster a sense of local pride.
Over-passes and retrofitting under-passes
- Underpasses are considered poor design practice and should be avoided. On the other hand, overpasses provide a greater sense of safety, with more visibility throughout their path.
- If unavoidable, they must be as short as possible and provide adequate lighting and clear visibility. Design should avoid corners or ridges, and be as wide and tall as possible.
- Where possible, activities like news-stands and coffee kiosks should be located at the entrances and exits of underpasses and overpasses.
- Underpasses and overpasses should be secured or closed off after their intended hours of use. Appropriate signage should be in place to inform the public of operating hours.
- Underpasses and overpasses should be within view of other pedestrians and vehicles (in lower speed limit areas). In higher speed limit areas, passing vehicles provide little surveillance of the site; therefore, CCTV cameras may be required.