‘HOW TO’ DESIGN INLINE SKATING PATHWAYS (& Other Features)
By Lorne Milne
Is your community lacking good places to Inline Skate??? Are you needing longer pathways to maximize your fitness workouts? Are you looking for more interesting alternate routes? Do you want to have more transportation alternatives to driving your car down the highway? Lorne Milne shares his expertise on designing Inline Skating venues!
Inline Skating boomed in popularity during the 1990’s. Initially many communities resisted the arrival of this new sport & banned its presence in their communities (due to the lack of qualified instruction & safe infrastructure for inline skaters to roll compatibly alongside others). Qualified instructors quickly emerged (certified by the IISA-International Inline Skating Association, & the USSG-United Skate School Group which morphed into Skate IA).
Infrastructure took a lot longer due to the energy required to mobilize communities to support, fund, design & build pathways & skate parks. The National Skate Patrol –NSP influenced community attitudes in developing positive perceptions of the sport (providing first aid, survival tips to new inline skaters, & leading group skate events on city streets). Ultimately what was needed for inline skating to become entrenched as a mainstream sport was well-designed infrastructure! Many excellent locations emerged across North America & many ‘mish-mosh’ weakly designed features also came to be. Here is a list of a few design points to employ when designing inline skating facilities for your community:
· Typically 2-way pathways should be 11-12 feet wide. As inline skaters stride sideways a 6‘+ tall inline skater may have a total stride width of over 5 feet. A little extra width is necessary so that the skaters have room space each other to avoid collisions, to pass, & to avoid kicking features at the edge of the path.
· If there is not existent space areas pathways can successfully shrink to 9’ two-way widths or be split into separate 6’ widths for 1-way traffic to go around obstacles (if skaters have appropriate instruction for pathway behaviour; if skating speeds are kept lower; if pathways have appropriately signed; if visual obstructions are addressed; if surfaces are smoothly designed, etc.).
· In North Vancouver’s Seymour Forest the pathway was widened to 18’ to address the steep grades & the Multi-Use aspect of the pathway;
Pathway Grades: New inline skaters quickly become aware of slopes (even in supposedly flat parking lots) when they stand on their skates. A 2 or 3 degree grade can start an inline skater rolling (from gravity without any striding)! Inline skaters are strongly encouraged to take outdoor instruction for success on a variety of grades & terraom (with varied surface quality & turn shapes). Pathway designers should consider the following:
· elevation changes should be dispersed over long distances to reduce grades(as it is common for beginner inline skaters to tackle slopes that have not been trained to handle). Grades over 6 degrees are very challenging for bladers whose prior experience was only in an indoor rink! Grades up to 11 degrees or more are quite sophisticated for most inline skaters & require advanced instruction for ‘braking’ & ‘steering’.
· The steeper the grade, the more important it is for designers to improve the quality of surfaces & reduce complicated turns angles;
· In very steep locations (like Seymour Forest, www.????) we designed ‘run- out locations’ (like truck run-outs) that run back uphill , & multiple ‘roley-poley’ hills to reduce accumulated descent speed (rather than having one continuous descent).
· Pathways should be widened at the bottom of steep grades(to allow passing by skaters travelling at higher speeds, & to reduce collisions with naïve bladers or other pathway users collecting at the basin).
Lateral Slope(for drainage): A 2 degree side slope is very important for draining & ‘quick-drying’ of pathways. On Vancouver’s beautiful Stanley park pathway (which is more prone to ‘rain showers’ than the False Creek pathways) drainage was successfully addressed in the 2005 pathway re-paving project!
Surface Materials: Vancouver road engineers are experienced in using high quality asphalt in road building (lots of sand, few or small pebbles only, high tar ratios, crowning of roads for drainage) rather than some of the inexpensive asphalt roadway construction (large pebbles, low tar ratio, low sand usage, flat roads) seen in some other North American cities. Ideal pathway design should include:
· Asphalt with high tar content & high sand content should ideally be used to create smooth surfaces to reduce the likelihood of hazards & to attract inline skaters to the pathways (rather than to pedestrian sidewalks). The other major benefit of asphalt is that it flexes with changes of temperature (or due to settling) more effectively than concrete. On Vancouver’s False Creek North Shore Pathway at David Lam park excellent asphalt was used & is 1 of the best examples of pathway design in the world. At North Vancouver’s Seymour Forest 3 million dollar pathway, we initially planned to install the smoothest asphalt ever seen on a pathway (as we planned from an inline skaters perspective before the other multiple users) but in the end we back-tracked the quality (just a little bit) as it is situated in a rain forest where lichen develops on asphalt (& there was concern over potential slipperiness). Over the years since it’s installation that lichen & dust integration with the asphalt has ‘smoothened’ it to the level we originally aspired to!
· Concrete Surfaces should be used cautiously. Road & Sidewalk engineers (who often are employed to install inline skating pathways) typically build concrete paths with lots of seams. Concrete is prone to plate lifting (due to settling), it is a higher density material with less shock absorption, it doesn’t flex (as mentioned above) like asphalt & engineers will often finish it with rough surfaces finishing (or aggregate) like sidewalks. Typically concrete construction cost more money (due great labour involvement; over-building to standards for the weight/wear of automobiles) which could have be used for building more miles of pathways. Vancouver’s Grandview ‘Cut’ pathway unfortunately used a traditional concrete sidewalk design (resulting in low inline skating user activity). In the early 90’s San Diego’s Mission Beach pathway was heralded as one of the best in North America, but by the end of the decade the concrete plates had lifted (due to shifting sand below & various earthquake tremors) to the point that frequently there were 3-4 inch abrupt rises at the ends of the sections. A very positive accomplishment using concrete is the perimeter pathway around Vancouver’s Science World. This is an excellent example of smooth surfacing without rough seams & with a drainage side slope. The New Convention Center pathway on the Inner Harbour also has marvellous surfacing. Vancouver has also successfully used a 12 inch concrete smooth frame at the edge of their asphalt pathways (eg. David Lam Park) to bolster the original gravel base prior to paving (reducing edging erosion).
Signage: Abundant signage dramatically contributes to safety. In Stanley Park & other Vancouver locations we’ve experienced a lot of resistance from other park & pathway users about potentially ‘ugly’ signage. Here are a variety of approaches to‘mix & match’ to max out safety & reduce confusion on the paths:
- Surface logo’s/signs: We’ve had success introducing Inline Skating & Bicycle Riding logo symbols painted on the pathway itself. So far they are often hundreds of feet apart. Having them frequently applied (under 50 feet apart) is ideal for pedestrians to notice while they wander on to the pathway from various directions);
- Shrunken Traffic signs: Victoria’s Galloping Goose pathway has ‘shrunken’ ‘Stop’ & ’Yield’ signs (50% of original road size). They are highly noticeable & the general public views them as ‘cute’ (not ugly)!!;
- Euro-Style Signage: On portions of Vancouver’s English Bay there are elevated (9‘ high) round ‘Euro-style’ symbol signs to denote wheel paths vs. pedestrian paths; They are not particularly noticeable but have not offended the ‘self-appointed’ sign police!;
- Street-Signpost style: Whistler has provided directional signs (with pathway titles) on classic Street Signposts. They are attractive & informative!
- Yellow Separation lines with directional signs: We used these in parks of English Bay & Seymour Forest. They are effective for separating ‘To-&-From’ traffic to either side of the pathway & increase ‘passing skaters’ attention to their position on the path. It is recommended that separation lines be used continually on Multi-use 2-way paths for separating oncoming traffic & on 1-way paths to improve passing behaviour;
- You can never have too many signs! The Ski industry has learned the importance of clearly marking ski trails (eg. Alpine Courtesy Codes; Difficulty ratings, Hazard signage) from a liability point of view. It’s better to be preventative in avoiding skater accidents than to decide it would be a good idea to add them after an incident.
Seperated Paths vs. Multi-use Pathways:
- Ideally it’s terrific to have Pathways for Inline Skaters, Bicycle riders, Razor Scooters users, & Wheelchair Athletes separated from Pedestrians to reduce congestion & accident potential (especially in areas of high user activity).
- We’ve designed Horizontally separated Pathways on Vancouver’s English Bay, north shore of False Creek & parts of Stanley Park. In these areas peak activity (reaching 700 bladers an hour, 700 cyclists an hour, & 1000 pedestrians an hour) has warranted extra efforts to eliminate the congestion.
- Where space was limited we designed Vertically separated (by a 6-8 inch rise) in portions of Stanley Park. This has been extremely successful in getting the wheel users to conform & to utilize their paths. The remaining challenge is to get pedestrians/tourists (looking at the wonderful Vancouver views) to observe the signage & to stick to the pedestrian pathways. Again this emphasizes the need for more signage.
One-Way Traffic: Due to the enormous traffic Stanley Park was successfully converted to 1 way traffic (as was New York’s Central Park).
Use of Bricks: Generally bricks are dreaded by inline skaters & are known as ‘Roller-Blade Killers’ (because the gaps between them are notorious for catching bladers wheels). They are very popular with landscape architects (who often have no or little expertise in designing paths for inline skaters). In Vancouver we have a mix of terrible usages of bricks (eg. Coal Harbour in front of Cardero’s restaurant where the grouting is deep & wide with lots of ‘wheel catching ’; North Shore False Creek at Davie & Marina Side Crescent near Urban Fare Market (where there are changing brick patterns for 100’s of feet) is particularly confusing as it alternates from ‘parallel bricks’ (where a skater would use a Basic Stride 1 with a 30 degree foot stance) to ‘herring bone’ patterns (where a 0 degree side push would be used) which is completely hazardous to a beginner. I brought this to the attention of the elected officials & the senior bureaucrats when this pattern was laid but they still have failed to respond in pulling up the bricks & re-paving the area. Bricks can be used in limited situations effectively (eg. 10 foot wide pedestrian crossings) where the brick has a different colour & texture (to denote it’s existence) but is flat without bevelled edges & with level grouting (so that wheels don’t sink into it) & patterned so that a skater can glide across that relatively short distance without having to stroke.
Pedestrian Crossings: As mentioned bricks can be utilized in these situations or metal stamps (that create much smaller gaps than brick grouting) can be used in fresh asphalt (to create the brick look with painted/coloured pavement). In highly congested areas (with lots of little kiddies running around) corral gates can be used (like Stanley’s Park Lumberman Arch water-park or Third Beach). Of course signage warning both inline skaters & pedestrians (with symbols so they are not limited to one language) are valuable as no one wants to run into someone else!
Learn-to-Blade areas: Every community should have public areas where inline skaters can learn to blade & practice (rather than struggling out in the popular pathways). In Vancouver I was able to gather 700 petition signatures to set aside a portion of the Sunset Beach parking lot & part of the Indy Race Car track for ‘learn-to-blade’ areas. Each of those areas adjoined the inline skating pathways & the water-front so they became high profile fun places to be. ‘Learn-to-Blade’ areas require adjoining grassy areas (or rubberized foam pads) for the pre-asphalt learning phase.
Having Pathways connect: It is common for pathways to spring up ‘in pieces’ about town without linkages to other pathways (as developers piggy-back on to their projects or there is sufficient space in that area). It is great to see anything new but the downside is that there may be limited usage due to the short length & lack of linkages. Designers should attempt to develop loops (so it can be used for fitness training) & priorize paths that have immediate linkages;
Destinations: As with the importance of having pathways connect, it is important that they go somewhere!! It may lead to a school, a park, a waterfront, or large parking lots so that it expands the areas inline skaters can use & can incorporate into their transportation purposes.
Covered Areas: The more covered outside areas there are, the more days of the year inline skaters can skate! In Vancouver the parks board has responded to our requests & are considering usage of all bridge footings. Presently there is a cone hill is under the Burrard St. Bridge; there is a Skate Plaza for aggressive skaters under the Georgia St. Viaduct & under the Cambie Bridge North End there is a joint Basketball court/skate area. I have proposed that the city addresses the frequently rainy days in Vancouver by putting peaked (45 degree) Plexi-glass roofs (no walls) over ‘learn-to-blade’ areas (& other playground features) so that they sun comes through, the snow & the rain runs off, but the outdoor experience is preserved! In Vancouver (where it rains 50% of the days of the year) this would double the potential days of the year you could inline skat