Age-Friendly Cities, Pedestrian Safety, Older Drivers and Universal Design

One key to enhancing safety for drivers and pedestrians alike is to embrace the virtues of Universal Design. CARP promotes the creation of Age-Friendly Cities and Universal Design – design that is accessible by everyone.

As our population ages there are many measures that can be implemented in all aspects of design and municipal policy to enhance public safety while maintaining drivers’ independence as long as it is safe to do so.

The more obvious recommendations include creating signage that is easier to distinguish, i.e. bigger stop signs and street signs and as well as ensuring that pavement markings are clear, legible and unambiguous. Another option is to provide wider pavement markings to delineate the travel path for all drivers on all approaches to intersections to compensate for visual limitations.

Other measures could include reducing speed limits, adding dedicated turning lanes and allowing more time at intersections with lights so that pedestrians can walk as opposed to being required to sprint. We know this is an issue for older pedestrians as a few participants in the World Health Organization focus group Age-Friendly Cities complained that stop lights were meant for Olympic runners!

As far as public policy is involved, the importance of providing alternative modes of transportation cannot be overstated. It is possible that many older drivers feel they might be trapped without their driver’s license as there is currently a dearth of publically funded alternatives to driving.

This points to a growing a need for public policy makers to initiate affordable and accessible transport programs such as Paratransit, dial-a-ride,volunteer transporation networks, private chauffeur service and shuttles operated by seniors’ centres. Those who have used such services have positive things to say about them but there is a disincentive to promoting these services as often, they are not able to meet demand. Another possibility is to provide taxi chits for seniors who might require curb-to-curb or door to door service.

As the population ages we will have to initiate some of these programs if we are to truly embrace aging at home, aging with dignity and public safety. What is more, these changes help everyone – that’s why they call it Universal Design