Route Information, Grades and Access
Understanding Slow Ways route pages
Each route page features a number of elements and information to help make decisions about its desirability or suitability.
1. Place or Settlement A Slow Ways route endpoint, usually a village, town or city.
2. Slow Ways Route A route plotted to join 2 places using existing paths, trails and roads.
3. Layers menu - Choose between different base maps; view routes, places and/or Slow Ways connections.
4. Slow Ways Route Name - The first 3 letters of each place at the end of a route, plus a number referring to a route option.
5. Route Verification - Confirmation by at least 3 reviews that a route should be in the Slow Ways network of walking routes.
6. Route Grading: Path surface grade - An indication of the worst quality of path on a route.
7. Route Grading: Access grade - An indication of a route’s level of accessibility.
8. Overview - A route description, photos, and a list of route options between its 2 end points.
9. Route Survey - A ‘deep review’ of a route including information about features and barriers to inform decisions about route suitability.
10. Geography - Information about the kind of landscapes a route travels through, and an elevation profile.
11. Route Review - Appraisals of the route contributed by users after walking or wheeling it.
12. Download - The option - with guidance for first time users - to download a route to be able to view it on a phone, or use with a walking or navigation app.
13. Save to Waylist - The option to save a route to be able to find it easily, create a collection of routes and journeys, and/or plan a longer journey.
14. More options - Options to save, survey, review and suggest routes, and a link (via Inkatlas) to enable printing of routes.
15. Route Rating - An average of star ratings included in reviews
Route pages include a range of information:
Route map includes:
- A line indicating the course of the Slow Ways route
- A zoomable and browsable map of where the route is located
- Changeable maps with options to show different things
- Menu options to print or download a route
Route card includes
- Names of places connected by the Slow Ways route
- Route name and route option number, where there is more than one option per route
- A snail symbol with a tick on its shell that indicates if a route has been verified
- Date the route was submitted by the person who created it
- Distance in kilometres or miles
- Path quality grade - indicating the worst quality of path surface
- Accessibility grade (to come) - indicating the steepest gradient and narrowest path width
- Total ascent
- Total descent
- A description of the route by the person who created and submitted it
- Photos of the route - posted as part of a review
- A list of Slow Ways route options between its 2 end points
Each Slow Ways route will in time have its own detailed survey to provide relevant information and help decision-making related to its accessibility for different users.
Surveys include information on:
- Access - including if a route is stile and step free
- Features and obstacles - such as potential barriers and any road walking
- Challenges - including if scrambling or climbing may be required
- Facilities - such as accommodation for under £50 and toilets
- Photos - that focus of obstacles and the quality of the path
Places have their own individual surveys too, showing the availability of facilities at the start and end of a Slow Ways route.
- An elevation profile
- A breakdown of how much of the route is through urban, wooded or other kinds of land
More geographies will be added over time.
- Star rating - between 1 and 5 stars
- Comments - written review descriptions
- Photos - pictures of what you can see on the route
- Option to ‘verify’ a route
Slow Ways routes display grades for path quality and access.
Route grades are just one indicator of how accessible or challenging a route might be. They are provided as indicators and should never be considered in isolation. Grades are always accompanied by a route distance as well as figures for total ascent and descent. Refer to photographs, written reviews and other route information to make judgements about its suitability.
Two grades - route surface and route access - are being piloted and tested to explore what is most useful to people with a range of mobility requirements.
We had wanted to wholly adopt an established approach, but could not find one that was both appropriate for the nature of the Slow Ways network and its potential users.
Path surface grade
This describes the worst quality of path on a Slow Ways route, and is gauged at the time of a survey being completed. It could reflect just one metre of path. It is based on an approach developed by Experience Community. You can see some examples of the grading in action on our Pinterest page.
|Path surface grade||Description|
|U||Ungraded. This route is yet to be graded.|
|1||Entirely smooth and compacted surfaces.|
|2||Mostly smooth and compacted surfaces, but there may be some loose gravel, muddy patches or cobbles.|
|3||Route includes rough surfaces that may include small boulders, potholes, shallow ruts, loose gravel, short muddy sections.|
|4||Route includes very rough surfaces including deep ruts, steep loose gravel, unmade paths and deep muddy sections. Wheelchairs may experience traction/wheel spin issues.|
|5||Route includes technical and arduous terrain where there may be potentially impassable barriers if the correct equipment is not used or barriers which require assistance to overcome. Potential obstacles and barriers must be photographed and described.|
Route access grade
This is under development, and is likely to be graded from A-E, with A grade routes having the highest level of accessibility. This grade incorporate a route’s most challenging gradients, cambers, widths and turning circles. It will also indicate if the route is free of stiles and other barriers.
This is a complex task, with sensitivities and a wide range of considerations. A finalised system will be informed by the publication of new guidance, listening to Slow Ways users and learning about how the Slow Ways network of walking routes is used. Route surveys will collect and display some path measurements.
In the meantime three temporary route access grades are being used.
|U||Ungraded. This route is yet to be graded.|
|Y||Stile, step, barrier and obstacle free. Should be accessible to all wheelchairs and scooters.|
|Z||Stile and obstacle free, but includes at least one flight of steps.|
|X||At least one stile, flight of steps, barrier or obstacle that is highly likely to block access for wheelchair, scooter or push-chair users.|
A flight of steps is defined as two or more steps in a row. Please check a route’s survey tab for a description of the route, photos and more details.
Information provided on the Slow Ways website - reviews, surveys - is unvetted. Please critically consider information, especially in relation to mobility or access requirements. If necessary, wait for multiple reviews or surveys of Slow Ways to be submitted, and/or cross-reference with trusted sources.
Contributions of route reviews and surveys by those with access insights are particularly welcome.
Discussions and input to the Slow Ways approach to accessibility and grading that is taking shape are invited. Read more here and feedback here [survey].
How Slow Ways routes are designed
A Slow Way is a route for walking (or wheeling) between neighbouring cities, towns and villages, using a variety of existing paths, ways, trails and roads.
Contributors design routes that follow a set methodology. As far as is reasonable a route should:
- be safe
- respect local codes and laws
- be accessible to as many people as possible
- be direct
- be off road
- have resting places to eat or sleep every 5-10km
- pass through train and bus stations
- be easy to navigate
- be enjoyable and beautiful
- use established routes (such as the Welsh Coast Path), but not be distracted by them!
Routes must start and finish at a designated location identified in the centre of the villages, towns or cities that are being connected.
A Slow Way route from, for example, Beaconsfield to Slough, can have multiple options, some of which may be more usable or desirable depending on the needs and desires of a user. Some routes will be accessible for some people but, depending on their situation, not others.
As an example, someone may follow our methodology for designing a route, but choose to make the route longer and less-direct for a number of reasons. These could include to make it more accessible, off-road or beautiful.
Slow Ways route pages give information to help make decisions about whether to use a particular Slow Ways route or not.
Slow Ways aim is to make it easier for more people to walk more often, further, and for more purposes.
Whilst not all Slow Ways routes are accessible to everyone, it’s a priority to highlight those that are, and those that should become more accessible too.
Key to this is collating a wide range of information about each Slow Ways route and sharing it in ways that help users judge if a route is suitable or desirable for them or not.
A system of grading and presenting information is being trialled and developed to indicate the quality of paths and access, reflecting the extent of stiles, rough surfaces, narrow paths, steep gradients and other variables on a route.
It’s a long-term and complex ambition, needing considerable learning, collaboration and investment. Information will become more detailed and advanced as the Slow Ways initiative progresses. This work might even lead to path improvements and enhanced accessibility.
Designing for accessibility means making something as accessible by as many people as possible.
The design of the site maintains a AA or above using the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). WCAG acts as a baseline for accessible design and not a standard. This means that there is sufficient contrast between important information/actions to be readable for those with a range of colour blindness. On top of that, the text size is considerably larger than the default web baseline to increase readability.
In more general terms we have tried to make sure that as much of the site is in plain and understandable words, actions are clear and users can get to the content they need to in a linear and predictable way.
Slow Ways is a community effort and through future testing and sharing the site with users we can highlight any future issues to make the website as accessible and inclusive as possible.