Roads and Streets for People: Why Human-Centred Design Matters

a view of the cityRoads and highways facilitate the efficient movement of vehicles from one place to another, helping provide the infrastructure necessary to support large-scale industries that make heavy use of transportation and delivery. These public infrastructure projects provide accessibility and convenience not only for these industries but citizens too, especially those with cars at their disposal.

The Current State of Vehicles and Roads in Australia

According to the 2018 Motor Vehicle Census compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were more than 19.2 million total land vehicles in Australia last year, which emphasises the effectiveness of roads and private transportation in the country. The high number was a 2.1 per cent increase from the previous year, indicating that the rate of vehicle ownership and use are steady if not increasing.

Though the prevalence of cars speaks well of the automotive and transportation industry, the proper measures must be taken to ensure that future developments also consider the walking population of Australia. Roads and streets should also take into account pedestrians, especially when the nature of traffic management in Australia prioritises drivers over pedestrians, according to David Levinson from the University of Sydney.

Focusing the Centre — Understanding Human Behaviour

One way to reintegrate the walking population into Australia’s plans for roads and streets is to take a human-centred approach to design. Human-centred design focuses on approaching any problem from the perspective of the human experience, thereby creating products and solutions that have the best interests of people in mind. The primary characteristic of this method is empathy; designers, or in this case, civil engineers, need to think of roads as environments for humans first and vehicles second.

Exercises in human-centred design often involve close communication with constituents, and in some cases, these methods require infrastructure designers or urban developers to immerse themselves in the everyday experience of users. It empowers developers to have a thorough understanding of a problem instead of rushing to solutions that merely prioritise quantity and efficiency.

Design that Prioritises Experience over Efficiency

In designing for roads and streets, traffic engineers primarily need to account for navigation and safety. The common experience of persons using roads, whether as pedestrians, drivers or commuters, is the need to travel from one place to another in a way that puts their health at risk. Instead of implementing major infrastructure changes, urban planning experts can use visual cues and instructions that can communicate most effectively to a wide range of users.

Human-centred design, in this case, involves using road signage and similar platforms to create a city that welcomes its walking population. According to experts at TranEx Group, a road safety company, road management involves not just construction and equipment but creative problem-solving. The design of pedestrian lanes, for example, can affect how cars and persons behave on the road. Adding raised platforms for pedestrian lanes, for example, has the dual effect of making pedestrians more visible to drivers and slowing down approaching cars, allowing a design solution that values the safety of everyone involved.

Situations like the above illustrate that design helps create spaces for people amidst the volume of vehicles on Australia’s roads. The goal of bringing human-centred design to the country’s infrastructure is to make sure that the welfare and safety of citizens remain as priorities, especially in this age of speed and development.