Friday 25 April 2014

Bouncing Buggies

Look, I know that I have gone on about dropped kerbs before, but now that we are using a pushchair again they are literally in sharp relief.

This is a short post and actually more of a plea to my peers to get dropped kerbs right. Ten years ago, we were pushing our son around in his buggy and every time we crossed the road, the dropped kerbs were either high or no existent.

A dropped kerb done properly. No slowing down, no wheelies and
no baby being tipped up.
Going into the road, we developed the skill of pulling a wheelie and lowering the buggy on its rear wheels (where the kerb was high) and doing the same to get up the other side. 

Loaded down with shopping, it was a pain and hard work. Get it wrong and the front wheels would hit the opposite kerb and tip the buggy forward while you bounced it around trying to get out of the road.

Ten years later and with a new baby, things have improved (not everywhere of course). Round my way, we have plenty done well with a gentle ramp; and with a kerb flush to the road. It makes pushing that buggy really easy.  I have had a hand in this by pushing colleagues within the highways team to get them right and the correct way to do things is now in our standard drawings - if contractors do it wrong, out it comes! It also helps having a Clerk of the Works as obsessed with this detail as I am!

There are other ways to do it. Speed tables at the entry to a side road means the level of the road comes up to the level of the footway with little or no ramp to worry about; effort to cross is further reduced.

Flush kerbs are an issue for blind and partially-sighted people, hence the use of tactile paving. I know it is hated by urban designers and architects, but if you rely on being able to find the edge of the footway, it is quite important.

Bromell's Road, Clapham.
Of course, we can go one stage better and prioritise pedestrians across side roads by continuing the footway across. No ramps, no tactile paving and so meets the objectives of being accessible to all and looking good (although getting this right would be a post in itself).

Level access is helpful to me pushing the baby in her buggy - my normal mobility is reduced. Getting details like this is vital for people using wheelchairs, mobility scooters and walking aids, because even the slightest lip makes crossing difficult or impossible.

So, my message to all designers and people supervising footway works is simple - gentle gradients and flush kerbs. It costs no more to do it properly and actually, you have no excuse not to do it properly.


  1. Of course, it's also worth mentioning that an able-bodied person pushing a pram has at least the option of lifting it over the obstacle - a disabled person in a wheelchair/mobility scooter/adapted bicycle, one imperfect dropped kerb en route could make the difference between an independent life and being stuck at home forever!

  2. Indeed. I know of several cases where a couple of well-placed dropped kerbs have given people their independence back. A tiny piece of detail can make a huge difference. For me, this is what civil engineering is about :-)

  3. All so true. This applies also to cycle paths. On NCN12 where it crosses the A1001 in Welwyn Garden City there is a badly designed dropped kerb so speed accross the road to bump up is vital and this is crossing a busy main road. The road was recently resurfaced, but because this was done by cutting out the old tarmac not laying new on top, nothing has changed. Poor quality.

  4. Resurfacing is a good time to tweak levels, but sometimes the issue is that kerbs were never put in properly in the first place!

  5. Using mobility scooter, wheelchairs, and walking aids can be play a vital role in every peoples life and it’s really work very cool way. Thanks for your remarkable post and thanks again for your sharing.

  6. It's something you never consider until you're pushing your child around. I'd never noticed before that the route into the supermarket using dropped curbs actually takes you to a set of steps!

  7. I'm late to this conversation, but glad to find it. I'm a transport planner recently arrived in Glasgow, and I've found the condition of the pedestrian environment to be pretty abysmal. The lack of dropped kerbs is one of the main elements of this. In my previous work, I managed projects where reconstructing curb ramps (US phrasing) was a major feature. In fact, moving here gives me new love and respect for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the last real civil rights legislation to be passed in the US. It mandates all sorts of changes to the built environment to make everything more accessible. As a designer, this seems to be almost overly detailed, but when I see how these meticulous standards are now being applied all across the country and are mandated by court order, I'm so appreciative. I, too, have to push a buggy all over town. It's horrendous. I'm constantly lumping it up and down kerbs, around parked cars blocking pedestrian pathways. It's not just that improved accessibility helps people in wheelchairs - it helps EVERYONE.

  8. Hi from Tasmania, Australia. We are pushing for revision of the current standard engineering drawings for kerb ramps. At the moment the Tasmanian standard specifies a lip or bullnose on driveway crossing ramps of 10mm. Even a lip this small can catch a small wheeled bike, scooter or pram. I wonder if you could point me towards British specifications for flush kerb ramps, that would help us to make the case locally.
    Thanks in advance,
    Di Elliffe

    1. Hello Di! Yes, are guidance is "inclusive Mobility" para 3.13 here

      Also, covered in 4.2 of this which is a one-stop shop on kerbs I wrote over on my micro-consultancy website