A crossover is a piece of infrastructure that allows a vehicle to cross over a footpath. A crossover has a ramp to enable a vehicle to transition from the level of the street to the level of the footpath, and is typically constructed from stronger materials than a footpath, so it can withstand the weight of a vehicle.

Examples of crossovers. Image credit: Streets Alive Yarra.

Summary

Council should specify that the maximum width of a crossover ramp is 600 mm, to:

  • give priority to people walking or using a wheelchair
  • provide a safe and effective footpath width
  • encourage drivers to slow down and look before crossing footpaths

That specification would bring Council’s crossover requirements into alignment with:

Yarra’s transport mode hierarchy. Image credit: City of Yarra Transport Strategy.

Problem

The problem with Council’s crossover requirements and enforcement processes is that they fail to deliver safe and useable footpaths that prioritise people walking. They enable footpaths to be degraded by crossover ramps that are unnecessarily wide. Comparing a new crossover ramp with an old one, the new ramp is wider, i.e. outcomes have worsened over time.

Example of a new crossover (front) with a ramp that is 1.44 metres wide, which delivers a worse outcome for people walking than a much older crossover (rear) with a ramp that is only 0.65 metres wide. Image credit: Streets Alive Yarra.

Existing requirements

Council’s existing crossover requirements are published at:

Excerpt from YSD601. Image credit: City of Yarra.

Assessment

Issues with the existing requirements include:

  • The Design Requirements Sheet fails to reference YSD601, making it unclear to users which document should be followed.
  • The Design Requirements Sheet doesn’t reference the Transport Strategy’s preferred minimum width of 2 metres, instead only requiring 1.2 metres.
  • YSD601 doesn’t reference the Transport Strategy’s preferred minimum width of 2 metres, instead only desiring 1.5 metres and requiring 1.2 metres.
  • YSD601 doesn’t limit the width of the ramped section, instead allowing it to occupy 1/3 of the available footpath width.
  • When a footpath is narrower than 2.15 metres, it’s unclear how the available width should be apportioned between the flat section and the ramped section.
  • When two requirements are in conflict, i.e. a 1.2 metre wide flat section versus the ground clearance requirements defined by AS2890.1-2004, it’s unclear which requirement has precedence.

Overall, in our view, Council’s existing crossover design requirements reflect a ‘driver first’ approach instead of the ‘walker first’ approach defined in the Transport Strategy. The outcome of existing requirements is that the ramped section is wider than it needs to be, instead of being as narrow (and as steep) as it could be, thus enabling drivers to proceed over the footpath at a higher speed, which increases the risk (and decreases the amenity) for people walking, using a wheelchair, a rollator, a walking aid, or pushing a pram.

Australian Standards

Yarra’s standard drawing references Australian Standard AS/NZS 2890.1:2004. Clauses 2.5.3 and 2.6.2 of the Standard consider the risk of scraping the underside of a vehicle, and refer to Appendix C Ground Clearance Templates. In turn, Appendix C describes the B85 car (for domestic properties) and the B99 car (for all other properties). Traversing these profiles over the cross section of a crossover leads to a typical ramp width of 1200 mm. 

B99 vehicle overlayed onto City of Sydney crossover drawing, which shows a typical ramp width of 1200 mm. Decreasing the ramp width, e.g. from 1200 mm to 750 mm, wouldn’t comply.

However, our understanding is that AS/NZS 2890.1:2004 does not have the status of law, and instead acts as a guide. Traffic engineers would of course understand that Councils are permitted to define their own requirements.  

Introductory text to AS/NZS 2890.1:2004.

Indeed, Council has already made the decision, via YSD601, that it’s acceptable to vary from AS/NZS 2890.1:2004, because when the available footpath width is 2150 mm, YSD601 defines a ramp width of 717 mm, which is narrower than the 1200 mm guidance from the standard. Typically, standards can be understood to be one method of demonstrating engineering due diligence (which is a guard against claims of liability), and that other methods are available, such as aligning with best practice.

Best practice

Best practice footpaths give a clear visual cue that drivers need to slow and give way, because they are crossing a pedestrian priority area. Examples of best practice can be found in the Netherlands, which require the use of pre-cast entry blocks, or ‘Inritbanden’. 

Best practice footpath in the Netherlands. Image credit: Augustus Brown
Entry blocks made in the Netherlands, with a slope of 12 degrees. Image credit: hardscape.co.uk.

Comparing best practice with car-based standards

Thus, the issue becomes a matter of balancing conflicting requirements, which is a common aspect of engineering judgment. 

On one side we have the ‘driver first’ approach of minimising the risk of scraping the underside of a vehicle (by complying with AS/NZS 2890.1:2004), and on the other side we have the ‘walker first’ or ‘safety first’ approach of aligning with best practice, to encourage drivers to slow down and look before they cross a footpath (to enter or exit an off-street parking location). 

The engineering code of ethics requires engineers to prioritise safety. In our view, the clear outcome of any design review of Yarra’s crossover requirements should be to align with best practice and to prioritise safety for people walking. 

Proposed changes

Council should:

  • Revise YSD601, Yarra City Council Public Domain Manual Technical Notes, and Vehicle Crossover Design Requirements Sheet November 2023 to all show a maximum ramp width of 600 mm (or 0.6 metres).
  • Revise one of the notes on YSD601 to state that the ramp width may be modified by exception if local circumstances require. Applications for an exception should include a cross sectional drawing that demonstrates why the default ramp width fails to provide a safe or useable geometry.
Proposed revision to YSD601. Image credit: Streets Alive Yarra.

Expected outcomes

Adopting this change (maximum ramp width of 600 mm) can be expected to deliver the following outcomes:

  • safer footpaths, with drivers slowing down and looking before crossing
  • best practice crossovers, with a maximum practical width of the flat section
  • consistent implementation of crossovers, i.e. consistent ramp widths
  • ability to vary crossover design for non-typical sites
  • clear and unambiguous crossover requirements, refer to the table below:
Proposed changes would deliver clarity and consistency for the required ramp width (values in mm). Note that the ? symbols are an outcome of YSD601 defining the ramp width only when the footpath is at least 2150 mm wide – below that value the drawing is unclear.

If Council declines to adopt the proposed best practice value of 600 mm, then at minimum Council should require the existing minimum ramp width (of 717 mm) to be used as a maximum ramp width for all footpath widths.

The photos below shows examples of the outcome we’re looking for – a wide footpath with a narrow ramp. Both are in the City of Yarra, with a crossover ramp only 570 mm wide (at 40 Elizabeth Street) or 600 mm wide (at Burgess Street). If those examples are possible, then standardising on 600 mm wide ramps should be possible. 

Example of a crossover ramp 570 mm wide. Image credit: Google Maps.
Example of a crossover ramp 600 mm wide. Image credit: Streets Alive Yarra.

Concluding remarks

Council should specify that the maximum width of a crossover ramp is 600 mm, to:

  • give priority to people walking or using a wheelchair
  • provide a safe and effective footpath width
  • encourage drivers to slow down and look before crossing footpaths

That specification would bring Council’s crossover requirements into alignment with:

  • adopted policy, i.e. the Transport Strategy
  • best practice
  • engineering ethics 

Streets Alive Yarra would be delighted to provide further detail or explanation of the themes raised in this document. 

Appendix – Transport Strategy

Relevant parts of Yarra’s Transport Strategy include:

  • Transport Vision: Opportunities to change and improve all aspects of the transport system have been actively pursued and implemented to make the city a liveable, economically prosperous and environmentally sustainable place.
  • Need for action: Frustration that things take too long to do is another theme that consistently emerges from community engagement…Frustrations about timeframes to deliver outcomes are understood and there are opportunities for us to get more done more quickly through decisive decision-making and project management and delivery innovations.
  • Priority #1: Prioritise walking, cycling and using public transport over car use.
  • Priority #3: Implement a New Deal for Walking – make the network suitable for all ages and abilities.
  • Preferred footpath width: the preferred minimum unobstructed clear width for a footpath is 2 metres.
  • Opportunities for walking: embed the need to provide good outcomes for pedestrians in all council transport projects and study work.