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Avoiding Curb Cuts Along Paths

Bill at Twin City Sidewalks:
Bicycle Curb Cuts & the Devil in the Details

Continuous Trail prioritizes the trail over driveways.

Bill writes:

Every time a driveway or a parking lot or a street intersects with a bike path, there’s a choice to be made. Do you prioritize the automobile traffic and force bicycle riders to go awkwardly up and down the often-crumbling curbs? Or, do you prioritize bicycles and pedestrians and force cars to go up and down a ramp.

[…]

First, these bike path intersections can serve as speed bumps, slowing down car traffic at precisely the intersections where they most need to be cautious. Second, the grade separation signals a point of difference for car drivers. The elevation change physically marks a difference between the parking lot or street, an encounter with pedestrians or cyclists who may be zipping past.

Third, and more subtly, having an at-grade curb cut really makes a difference for people riding bicycles or in wheel chairs. Each time you have to slow down and cautiously bump your way up and down another curb cut, it destroys a little bit of your joy.

[…]

In my bike trips experiences in Europe, I’ve seen off-street bike paths that prioritize cyclists, forming a nice level path for people doing active transportation. This is pretty rare around here, though. Almost the only example I can think of is the new Phalen Boulevard bike path, where the curb cuts are designed to keep bikes on the level. I say it all too rarely, but good job St Paul!

I couldn’t agree more with Bill. This is a very simple design detail that is a no-brainer for low-volume private driveways. It should also be at least considered for all but the highest-volume driveways. And a gold star for any agency willing to consider this treatment at locations at some public roadway intersections.

2 comments to Avoiding Curb Cuts Along Paths

  • I’ve been on my hometown, Northfield, to consider this for new projects. So far, however, I’ve never seen it applied to public streets, and whether or not it is applied to driveways seems to be on the whim of the city engineer, building official, or project engineer.

    For all driveways, I think it makes sense, but it could do a lot of good for intersections of two public roads, where one is stop- or yield-controlled. As we configure things now, where a 200 ADT 2-lane road meets a 8000 ADT road, there is nothing visually distinct about which is the major road and which is the minor road — we instead throw up 36″ signs to do that for us. Using driveway-style accesses to those streets clarifies the major street, and provides a more comfortable, consistent experience for the pedestrian walking along the major street. Bonus points for forcing cars to slow down in order to turn onto the minor street, giving more time for reaction for bikes or pedestrians on the sidewalk.

    The only downfalls that occur to me would be:

    a.) it might exacerbate existing problems with pedestrians crossing streets in unmarked crosswalks in absence of a sign or signal. Already, most people fail to yield to pedestrians; with this, a pedestrian crossing the asphalt roadway might seem even more unfamiliar.

    b.) obviously, it might cause drainage issues. I suppose that could easily be accounted for in a full reconstruction, but might make it difficult to implement on existing streets.

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