Projects 2010 > Hills are Evil > Journal
To understand exactly where we're going to go with this project we need to look into what we need from an accessible route.
Most commonly, the term 'accessible route' is used in reference to those with restricted mobility, such as wheelchair users. In such cases, a route would need to avoid: steep hills (both up- and down-ward); uneven surfaces like cobbles; unstable surfaces like sand; steps (including kerbsides) and cattle grids – so a route free from these 'no-goes' would be considered accessible.
BUT if you can walk a little but need a wheelchair for long distances then your criteria for 'accessible' may change – for example, steps and uneven surfaces may no longer be an issue but steep hills might remain a problem.
Temporary obstructions can also affect accessibility – the snow we experienced last winter comes to mind – and everyone loves a shortcut. If we attempt to create routes that are accessible to all then we risk sending everyone round the long way. Why walk around the 'obstacle' when, for you, it isn't an obstacle and you could just take the stairs? What we all want is a route that reflects and caters to our needs.
On most route planners for cars you have the option to avoid motorways or tolls, or to use live traffic data to ensure the swiftest route. On the cycling route planners we have come across online, you usually have the options of fastest, quietest or most balanced. This lends itself nicely to enabling users to choose whether to go for a leisurely scenic ride or get from A to B as quickly as possible.
Our approach to routing is therefore with the emphasis on 'user defined accessibility' – creating a tool that enables our users to personalise their criteria for an accessible route. For more reflections on accessible routing, Steve Patterson's July 2008 blog post may be of interest.