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In the UK, we have many paths that are shared by pedestrians and cyclists, with a dividing line down the center to show who should be on which side of the path.

I noticed that at the end of such paths there are usually some different coloured slabs with ridges on them. Presumably these are just to alert people that the path is ending.

But I've noticed that on every path, the ridges are arranged differently for the cycle lane to the pedestrian lane- they always go parallel to the path for cylists, and perpendicular for pedestrians.

enter image description here

There is obviously a reason for this, since it appears to be universally applied. But I can't figure it out. I would have thought that it would make more sense to make the cyclists have the "bumpy" slabs, so they consciously notice that the shared path has now ended. As for pedestrians, I can't see why it should make a difference at all- maybe ridges across the path make it less slippery in the snow?

Can anyone suggest the actual reason?

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Why should the cyclists be alerted that they're on the correct side of the road? – Juhana Jul 29 '13 at 14:03
@Juhana So they don't rush round a blind corner on the wrong side of the path and crash into an old lady. – Urbycoz Jul 29 '13 at 16:07
Sorry to ask a tangential question, but is that a two way path? Are both directions of cyclists really expected to share half the path? Seems awkward... – Steve Bennett Jul 30 '13 at 23:11
@SteveBennett Yes it is two way. Not such a problem for pedestrians, but cylists have to watch out for other cyclists coming the other way. – Urbycoz Jul 31 '13 at 15:54
Cool - but weird. Paths here (Australia) are split down the middle, for direction, like a road. Pedestrians and cyclists share space. – Steve Bennett Jul 31 '13 at 23:17
up vote 34 down vote accepted

It's not psychology; it's purely physical.

The reason is that the perpendicular ridges are easy for pedestrians to walk on, but bumpy for cyclists; and the in-line ridges are easy for cyclists and harder for pedestrians.

Note that this is at the entry of the cycle lane. It's not designed to alert cyclists that their lane is ending; it's designed to make sure that cyclists do not enter the pedestrian lane (and that pedestrians do not enter the cycle lane).

You can see a similar thing at UK level crossings — there are triangular sections laid with a point upwards in this photo. They are difficult to walk along and make access to the tracks difficult.

UK level crossing access restrictor

The in-line ridges in the cycle-path are not as ankle-crushingly difficult, but make the point while being easy for cyclists to ride between.

Image: Lincoln High Street from the Lincolnshire Echo

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I'm not convinced the in-line ridges make any difference to pedestrians - I've never noticed any - but the perpendicular ridges are unpleasant to cycle over. – Jack Aidley Jul 29 '13 at 14:15
In-line ridges are dangerous for cyclists, not easier. If the pitch is sufficiently wide, it can catch a tire. – Kaz Jul 29 '13 at 16:51
@JackAidley These markers are not there for general pedestrians or cyclists. They are there as tactile feedback for partially sighted users (who can't read the signage). – Brendon Jul 29 '13 at 18:01
@Brendon: In fact, "This arrangement was chosen because it was felt the rumble effect created by the transverse pattern would deter cyclists from entering on the pedestrian side." from here (pdf link) on page 55. I think this refutes your claim that they are purely for partially sighted users. – Jack Aidley Jul 29 '13 at 18:13
@JackAidley Well, I don't think this system would be used if partially sighted people didn't exist. The entire design is driven by the needs of partially sighted users. The fact that the horizontal rumble strips deter cyclists seems rather peripheral to the design. – Brendon Jul 29 '13 at 20:03

Not sure if this is the primary reason, but it can help partially sighted users.

Tactile surfaces are used in the UK to provided information about the environment to partially sighted people. For example "blister" surface is to warm people that a footpath is ending and a carriageway begining.

Further information can be found here:

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In the document you will find information about the tactile path marking described in the question: Chapter 5 - Segregated Shared Cycle Track/Footway Surface and Central Delineator Strip – pabouk Jul 29 '13 at 15:45
It's also described in The Highway Code rule 13: "Segregated routes may also incorporate short lengths of tactile paving to help visually impaired people stay on the correct side. On the pedestrian side this will comprise a series of flat-topped bars running across the direction of travel (ladder pattern). On the cyclist side the same bars are orientated in the direction of travel (tramline pattern)." – jfrej May 17 '14 at 22:11

This is a physical alert for cyclist not to enter pedestrain lane. Such physical alerts used also on the roads for good vibrations.
enter image description here

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Cyclists don't like riding across the unpleasant bumps. When they do, it's a good indicator that they are doing something wrong. Assuming they are aware of the system that is. – LoganGoesPlaces Jul 29 '13 at 16:50

These differences in tactile surfaces are physical guidances for visually impaired users of shared cyclist/pedestrian paths that aren't otherwise differentiated. e.g. by use of railing, curbs or levels

Additionally, local government installations of these surface are guided by or consulted with the Department of Transport so they are, therefore universally applied.

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Jack Aidley linked to the Government document Guidance on the use of tactile paving surfaces in a comment to another answer, but he missed the salient point in the document which directly addresses this question.

5.1 Purpose

  • The purpose of the tactile surface used in conjunction with a segregated shared cycle track/footway is to advise visually impaired people of the correct side to enter.

emphasis mine

May I also add that as a father who pushes a buggy around, I always use the cycle-side when entering and leaving these paths!

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This seems to be for visualy impaired people. The orientation of the ridges must be a convention.

I think that it is badly chosen in this case : The perpendicular ridges are harder to guess with a stick for blind people (they move it from left to right). And the others are quite dangerous for bikes when wet because tires could get trapped in gutters. If the bike is not ridding straight, it may make the driver fall.

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I agree with the bike-slabs looking a tad dangerous as they could force the side-to-side position of a wheel and prevent the rider to make balancing steers. – Oskar Duveborn Aug 2 '13 at 11:14

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