When it comes to conversations about increasing mobility in urban areas, they generally center around decreasing vehicle congestion and environmental impact and improving walkability. As cities become smarter (and more population-dense) planners are increasingly turning to the optimization of wayfinding solutions.
Following best practices and keeping pedestrians top-of-mind helps encourage walkability and mobility, and makes a city accessible for everyone despite age, potential disability, or knowledge of the area.
Why is Pedestrian Wayfinding Important?
Simply put, wayfinding is essential because it helps pedestrians navigate the streets in accurate and clear paths. It also keeps them safe in high-traffic areas and allows them autonomy to explore and enhance their understanding of the space. The bottom line is an improved user experience for everyone.
Wayfinding solutions should also encourage walking as the preferred mode of transportation, especially as initiatives grow to help combat climate change and personal health is becoming more of a priority than ever. Pedestrians are more likely to stop into local businesses than those traveling by car, which impacts the economy of the city as well.
Walking levels the equality playing field, too. Enhanced wayfinding makes it easy for pedestrians across socio-economic backgrounds to travel through a city and not feel confined by the need for a vehicle. Fewer cars on the road means that it’s easier to use bicycles and public transportation.
What are the Basics of Pedestrian Wayfinding?
At the most basic level, pedestrian wayfinding needs to provide a way for people to navigate through public spaces in order to reach a destination — getting from point A to point B without getting lost. This needs to be accomplished by touching on a pedestrian’s sensory experience and adaptable for a range of situations.
Residents & Visitors: Residents that don’t have a disability may be familiar with the terrain, but will need some additional help when roadwork changes their usual walking route or within an unfamiliar neighborhood. Visitors (like tourists) need more help getting around unfamiliar areas and need more complex wayfinding tools. Identify things like landmarks, popular hotels, and any tourist attractions.
Vision-impaired & hearing-impaired pedestrians: Wayfinding needs to depend less on visual signage in order to help pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired. Tools need to be provided to help plan a trip in advance, before even stepping outside. During the trip, they will depend on tactile and auditory cues to help avoid danger, and all of these strategies need to provide a sense of autonomy without the reliance of a third-party guide. Pedestrians with hearing impairments rely on clear, accurate visual signage, so ensure that wayfinding tools are easy to read and understand.
Those with physical disabilities: Unfortunately, not everywhere is accessible to those who may need accessibility. Because of this, a path designed for them to navigate should be clearly marked to offer ease of use. Wheelchair users have low visibility of signage compared to walking pedestrians and need wayfinding information within reach.
Which Pedestrian Wayfinding Solutions are Currently Being Used?
Existing wayfinding solutions are used to meet the changing and varied needs of the population.
Visual: Traditional or digital signage can be used, but keep literacy in mind. If your population is multilingual, tackle the challenges of meeting non-English speaking demographics. Update them frequently and as needed and position them so everyone can access them.
Accessible pedestrian signals: These can be controlled with a remote or even a smartphone, and help vision-impaired pedestrians navigate areas quickly and safely. APS tools are easy to install and update, and can be customized without a high technical skill level.
Digital maps: For pedestrians who need (or want) to plan out their entire journey before getting started, journey planners are an invaluable tool and can be updated in real-time. While it doesn’t allow for any indoor mapping access, it gives a big-picture look at the accessibility of an entire community.
How Are Pedestrian Wayfinding Solutions Implemented?
To begin with, it’s crucial to have a vast understanding of a range of the population’s needs. Work closely with experts to understand what your community’s best solution will look like. Our systems scale easily to cover large geographic areas, containing hundreds and thousands of location-specific wayfinding products, consistent across a breadth of both digital and printed channels.
And as your city changes, our wayfinding solutions assess the impact. This ensures that ’smart’ asset management is a core element of the service we provide – only those products affected by changes on the ground need to be updated. Our approach is centralized and bespoke to your needs, fed with the latest city data that drives the production of map and directional products. Let’s make something great together.