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Tactile Paving
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Tactile Paving
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Introduction

'Tactile' is the term given to the range of paving units that bear a distinctive, raised surface profile that can be detected by both sighted and visually impaired pedestrians . The most common example to be seen on the streets of Britain and Ireland are the Tactile pavings used at pedestrian crossings.
 

Types

As the implementation of tactile paving has progressed, new forms have been made available. When they were first introduced, back in the 1980s, the only readily available form was the 450x450mm pre-cast concrete flag, but they are now available as clays pavers and natural stone, as well as in bespoke formats, such as the units with steel or brass 'blisters'. Further, many of the concrete flag forms, are now manufactured as 400x400mm units (F50s and F65s) rather than 450mm (E50 and E65) units. The units are generally laid in the same manner as standard pre-cast concrete flags or block pavers, although many are now being laid on a full concrete bed to ensure accidental trafficking by cars, vans and lorries doesn't result in expensive breakages.

The key element with tactile paving is that different surface profiles are intended to denote different hazards, and these are outlined below.

tactile flags
blister and offset blister There are two types of Blister paving: the most common type features 6mm high 'blisters' in a square pattern and these are used to indicate pedestrian crossings with dropped kerbs. Normally, the red-coloured units are used with light-controlled crossings, and buff for those crossings with no traffic lights. However, when natural stone units are used, this colour-coding is disregarded.
The Offset Blister units are used to indicate the edge of the platform at Rail and Tram stations, also referred to as off-street applications. Note that the orientation of the offset blister units is critical - the rows of blisters MUST be parallel to the platform edge, and they are generally placed approximately 500mm back from the edge.
Hazard Warning units use continuous half-rods, raised 6mm higher than the surface of the paving, to denote a hazard, such as the top/bottom of a flight of steps. Again, the rods should be parallel to the edge of the hazard.

Cycleway paving uses continuous flat bars to indicate a cycle lane. The bars run parallel to the direction of travel so as not to impede cycles. Where a cycleway and a footpath are adjacent, these pavings may also be used for the pedestrian section, with the bars running transversely, and a demarcation strip between the two.

hazard and cycleway
Directional and Lozenge Directional or Guidance paving is used to indicate the safest direction of travel for the visually impaired. The raised flat bars have rounded ends.

Lozenge paving is used as a platform edge warning for on-street applications. As towns and cities rediscover the advantages of trams and Light Rail Transport (LRT), this type of paving will become more common.

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Examples

Tactile paving can be found in more and more places on the streets of Britain and Ireland, in a seemingly bewildering array of layouts. We're not sure all the applications we've seen are strictly in accordance with the official guidance, but what follows is a general guide to possible uses, and is factually correct, to the best of our knowledge.

Blister Paving

For controlled crossings, the blister paving should span the full width of the crossing, from the dropper kerb on the right-hand side, to the dropper on the left-hand side (or as near as dammit without needing to cut the units). This strip of blister paving is normally 800-1000mm wide.
blister crossing layout
blister paving  

Where the footpath is wider than the 800-1000mm wide blister strip parallel to the roadway, two or three courses of the paving are extended to the back edge of the footpath so that the location of the crossing can be detected by all users.




....in concrete
red blister paving
Red Blister paving on a light-controlled crossing
buff blister paving
Buff Blister paving with pram access on a non-controlled crossing
grey blister paving
Blister paving in 'Natural' grey on a non-controlled crossing
 

For the concrete flag versions of the blister paving, the red, buff and 'Natural' grey are the three usual colours.

At the discretion of the local highways department, the guidance that recommends red units for light-controlled crossings and buff or grey for other crossing can sometimes be over-ruled when there would be an aesthetic clash of materials or colours.




....in stone
red granite blister paving
Close up photo of individual red granite blister flagstone...
red granite blister paving
...and what they look like when installed
grey granite blister paving
Grey granite blister paving at a light controlled crossing
york stone blister paving
Yorkstone blister paving in central London
With stone tactile paving, the blisters are normally milled to a circular shape to match those found with the concrete and clay equivalents, but such work can be expensive and so a number of suppliers offer a slightly cheaper 'square milled' profile, which meets the requirement of having the blisters at a specified separation, but the shape is different.

It is usually at the discretion of the local highways authority as to whether this profile is acceptable. Not all of them will be in favour.

square blisters
Square blisters on a crossing in Birkenhead

 

Metal studs
The relatively high cost of having bespoke blister paving manufactured in a stone to match or complement other stone paving in the vicinity has resulted in some local authorities using metal 'studs' that are affixed to standard paving units. Some studs rely on drilling and gluing into position, while others use a high strength adhesive or epoxy resin to fix them into position.

The most commonly encountered metal studs tend to be stainless steel in the usual chromed steel colour or a bronzed effect. They are typically retro-fitted, once the paving is installed, and therefore almost any stone paving can now be used for crossing points as the stones ability to be milled to a blister profile is irrelevant.

bronzed blister studs
Bronze-effect blister studs

They're the yellowy blobs set amidst the grey blobs of chewing gum.

steel blister studs
Typical crossing studs in stainless steel
close up steel blister studs
Close up of stainless studs set into a French limestone
 ribbon
...as a deterrent

A growing use for metal studs is as a deterrent against skateboards, micro-scoooters, heelies and other forms of wheel-based youthful exuberance.

Occasionally, studs will be set into low benches and planter walls, but by placing the studs into the pavement immediately adjacent to these tempting obstacles, the various bits of street hardscaping can be effectively protected with minimal impact on un-wheeled citizens.

anti-skateboard studs
Anti-skateboard studs



....in clay
The clay blister pavers offer great versatility. The most popular size measures 200x133x65mm with 6 blisters, although at least one manufacturer produces an 8-blister 200x100mm unit. There is a good range of complimentary units, such as half-blocks and they can all be laid in a range of patterns. Where there are abrupt or significant changes in surface levels, they offer all the flexibility of block pavers in being able to roll and fold, whereas the large concrete and stone units often need to be mitre cut, which isn't the prettiest of treatments. red clay blister blocks
Red clay blister tactiles laid as herringbone
blue clay blister blocks
8x2 Blue clay blister tactiles laid as stretchers
buff clay blister blocks
6x2 Buff clay blister tactiles laid as stretchers
blue blister tactiles
Blue clay blister tactiles in central London
red blister blocks
Red clay blister tactiles at a controlled crossing

 

....there's even 'falsies'!
These 'stick-on' tiles have been used in some of our towns and cities where retro-fitting of concrete, clay or stone tactile units to a crossing point is deemed impractical for whatever reason. Originally, they were often used as 'temporary' tactiles, on crossings where the local Highways Department hoped to effect a more permanent tactile pavement at some point in the future, but their performance has surpassed expectations and they are now commonly fitted as permanent fixtures. surface mounted blister paving
The correct name for these units is "Surface Mounted Tactile Paving", reflecting the fact that they are fixed (or "mounted") over an existing surface.

They are epoxy glued into place over the top of the existing paving, making installation simple, quick and cost effective, as it eliminates excavation and the footpath can be re-opened in as little as two hours.

product study Read a Pavingexpert.com product study for Apollo Tactiles, following the installation of a surface mounted tactile crossing to a public footpath in Wigan, Lancashire.

 


Offset Blister

Although there are clay paver units available for this type of tactile paving, they are rarely used, as the regular, standardised layout of rail station platforms makes the use of the 400x400mm or 450x450mm pre-cast concrete units much simpler.

The flags are normally laid 500mm or so back from the platform edge, and, as mentioned above, the rows of blisters should be parallel to the rail track.

offset blister paving
Surface mounted offset blister paving
offset blister platform edge paving
Platform edge offset blister paving in Charcoal colour
blister paving buff
Offset blisters in buff with added fag ends and coffee spills

 


Hazard Warning

This type of tactile paving is also known as Corduroy paving, and features a rounded or rod-like surface protrusion which distinguishes it from the flat, bar-like protrusions of the directional guidance paving. It is intended to be used as a hazard warning, most notably for flights of steps.

They are readily available in pre-cast concrete, in a range of colours as clay pavers, and in natural stone by special order.

corduroy
At top of steps
Brown clay paver
corduroy yorkstone
In Yorkstone
Special Order Units
corduroy buff paver
Buff paver
laid to a curve
rods and bars
Note different profile of tactile units

granite hazard paving
Granite hazard paving outside The Old Bailey
irish limestone hazard paving
Kilkenny Blue Irish Limestone hazard units
yorkstone hazard paving
Radial cut hazard paving in yorkstone
pcc hazard paving
PCC buff hazard units - but why here???

 


Cycleway Paving

Flat bars run longitudinally with the direction of travel. These units tend to be used in those projects where there is no kerb or other strong demarcation between a footpath and the cycleway. In many towns and cities where cycle lanes are delineated by means of a kerb or similar, the bicycle-only lanes are now being identified by using a red or green surface dressing or bitmac to give a strong visual indicator.
cycleway
cycleway paving cycleway paving
Note that the tactile paving is aligned longitudinally for the cycleway section (right-hand side) and transversely for the pedestrian section (left-hand side), and that the cycleway pavement is closest to the carriageway
granite cycleway paving granite cycleway paving
These two photographs show granite cycleway paving used on a retail park in Dublin. The dark markings are residual moisture that sometimes affect this type of imported granite, but are not structurally detrimental.

Note the central apex paver that offers gentle but definite separation between footway and cycleway, and, if you've really keen eyes, the inlaid cycle motif to the top end of the cycleway section.

 


Directional or Guidance Paving

This tactile paving is intended to act as a guide across large paved spaces, with the bars lying parallel to the direction of travel. Where a turn is encountered, the alignment of the paving should reflect the change of direction.

Pre-cast concrete and clay units are available from various manufacturers.

guidance blue paver
Blue Clay Paver
used as a directional unit
directional paving
PCC Directional/Guidance units

 


Lozenge Paving

Used for rail, tram and, increasingly, bus stops in non-station applications, ie, on the open street.

With the on-going redevelopment of bus stops to make them more disabled-friendly, this type of paving is becoming more common.

lozenge paving
Lozenge paving used at a bus stop
lozenge paving at tram stop
Lozenge paving at tram stop

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Further sources of information on Tactile paving:

TRL - Tactile markings for the guidance of visually handicapped pedestrians.

Institute of Highways & Transportation - Guidelines for reducing mobility handicaps towards a barrier-free environment

Disability Unit - Circular 1/91 on the use of dropped kerbs and tactile surfaces.

Building Regs - Document M - Access and facilities for disabled people.

DETR - Guidance on the use of Tactile Paving Surfaces

BS EN 1339 - Concrete Paving Flags

BS 7533-4:2006
- Code of practice for the construction of pavements of precast concrete flags or natural stone slabs

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