Humans in the Design of Yellow Lines

A little while back, I blogged my observations on the effectiveness of a yellow “do not cross” line at Helsinki Airport. The line worked for awhile:

Until it didn’t:

I compared this to previous broken windows studies which we’ve reported - In short, in small social situations a rule works, until other start to break it.  Then we all break it.

In response to this we received an excellent post in the comments below from Ali Robertson talking about the yellow ‘do not cross’ lines at a train station from Melbourne, Australia.  His observations was that the texture of line seemed to matter:

"In Melbourne, Australia, we had something like this at train stations. The solution was to actually use rubber studs in the floor to texture the ground very differently, and provide multiple threshholds for people to ‘break through’. This was done at pretty much every station. I’ve attached a couple of images of a crowded platform 7 at Flinders street station… One from the 1920s, and one from 2007. Note the distance people now maintain from the edge - this is not due to any signs or announcements."

1920s Melbourne Train Platform - Crowds huddle close to the track.

2007 Melbourne Train Platform - Textures seem to move people away from the track.

I had actually made the same observations as Ali.  He just beat me to the punch!  The below is my comment response:

"I have actually taken photos of this in a number examples of just this point and intended to blog about it.
I believe (though I have not confirmed this) that these studs are actually for the visually impaired.

However, they definitely seem to work to provide a tactile barrier.  My post was going to be if this was an unintended side-effect of a design change - I was going to try and coin this ‘unintended affordance’.

Do you know I’m incorrect that it’s unintended?

Thanks so much for the comment and pics.”

Here are some of the pics I have been collecting:

2011 London Tube Platform - Textures seem to move people away from the track.

2012 NYC Subway - Standing on the textures made me feel I was too close.

Well it turns out I was right.

These raised, dome-shaped studs are technically part of a method called tactile paving or Tactile Ground Surface Indicators.  These studs can be detected by a white cane, a service animal, or even by standing or walking on them. 

Various disability discrimination acts require that train platform edges and other pedestrian hazards such as stairs, curbs and ramps.

Ramp with Tactile Paving in New York City

Stairs With Tactile Paving in New Zealand

The method was first introduced in 1967 to Okayama City, Japan.  And, at least from a google image search, they’re still leading the charge today.

Japanese Subway including textures/shapes to indicate locations.

The bumps don’t make it impossible for stand in a hazardous or high-traffic place, but they make it much more pleasant to stand somewhere else - a nudge if you will.  

It’s another example of how inclusive design is not only better for the persons who rely on it.  It’s better for everyone.  

It can even be beautiful:

Beautiful use in Japan, leading the vision impaired around a manhole.



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