kriste, curb cut connoisseur

in my quest to be a walker again, i’ve logged a lot of miles on the sidewalks of various cities. as a person with a mobility disability (is that a pc way to say it?), i notice different things than i did when i smarmily strolled around without a care in the world pre-august 2009. i guess you can say that i’ve become kriste, the curb cut connoisseur. you can say that, as long as you spell everything correctly – no wacky Ks. and yes, i had to look up how to spell connoisseur.

i started walking regularly when i was staying with my friend sandy in pasadena in january. easy to do when the streets look like this:

but on closer inspection, i found a lot of problems with the sidewalks in this part of town. things that i likely would never have noticed if i didn’t walk with a cane and still have very fresh memories of walking with a walker and getting around in a wheelchair.

there were lots of sidewalk sections where the concrete had been raised by roots, and hadn’t been ground down. at this point in my mobility recovery, these aren’t nearly the hazards that they would have been when i was first walking with a cane, and they would have stopped me and my walker cold. wheelchair too.

but perhaps most sinister was the way that the sidewalk ended on many blocks.

exhibit a

please note exhibit a. lovely, right? especially considering that this picture was taken in january. but look at the where the sidewalk ends. let me tell you, that is a pretty high curb. if i had been walking with a walker or in a wheelchair, or even cane-walking a few months ago, getting  down that curb would have been impossible. i would have had to endlessly circle the block or go out into the street down a driveway. assuming that i could manage the driveway’s curb cut.

which brings me to the seemingly endless variety of curb cuts (there might be an official name for curb cuts. i have no idea. that’s what i call them).

here’s a bad curb cut. i call this one the straight shooter.

you can see why. now, one of these streets isn’t very busy. but when the streets that intersect both are, it gets pretty scary in a wheelchair or with a walker. i had a few close calls with these back in my wheelchair days.

here’s a curb cut done right. the slope is gradual, and both cross walks are easily accessible – you can get right into them. this is the antidote to the straight shooter.

another good one. this is a little overly-fancy, though, in my opinion. two chutes for the crosswalks. i prefer the simplicity of the last example, but this is so much better than nothing. and the texture on the slope is nice.

speaking of texture, what is the deal with these yellow things? when i walk on them, i feel unsteady. and i’m guessing they’d be pretty hard to navigate with a walker or a wheelchair. plus, they’re ugly. look at that lovely brick sidewalk. bookended with these yellow monstrosities. and they’re popping up all over the place. who are they for? are they a warning track for pedestrians? i don’t understand. and i wish that the money for them was spent installing benches instead.

here’s a really difficult cut to manage if you’re mobility-challenged. the driveway stays slanted the whole time, which pushes you out toward the street. imagine being on this in a wheelchair or with a walker or a cane. there’s a flat bit up above, but to get onto it you have to go on the slanted part or into the dirt.

all hail murphy's. good food, good people, good curb cut.

this is a much easier driveway cut to manage. it slopes down, evens out, then slopes back up. with a wheelchair or a walker, you don’t get directed out into the street by this cut. i think of this kind of cut as the “home stretch cut” because this particular one is the last one i have to navigate on walks around my neighborhood.

ok, ok. i realize that the type of driveway cut depends on the height of the driveway compared to the street. if the driveway is the same height, you get the home stretch cut. if the driveway is higher, you get the slanted cut. but wait a minute, what about the C cut, the holy grail of curb cuts? elegant.


no, thank you.


a few days ago i was out on a walk with my friend melanie, and i was telling her about my fascination with curb cuts. at one point we were walking along a stretch of sidewalk next to a ballfield, with parking along the other side. the street we were heading to T-ed into this street. melanie noticed that there wasn’t a curb cut until the next block down. if i couldn’t go off the curb, we would have had to walk to the end of the sidewalk and double-back. but i can go off curbs, with some concentration, so we crossed the street and finished up our walk.



7 responses to “kriste, curb cut connoisseur

  1. The yellow bubble pods are even difficult to navigate in high-heels, as I discovered after September 2010, when I became downtown impaired. I can’t resist this corny joke, Kriste: the braille transcription is “if you can read this, you’re drunk.” Really, what are they for?

  2. I have also wondered about the yellow thingies. I figured maybe they keep my stroller (and hence somebody else’s wheelchair) from rolling away down the little slope? But if they made your life harder in a wheelchair, I totally fail to see the point. I do a lot of walking with the child in a stroller, and I do often think about the frustrations I have with curbs and curb cuts and how they might impact the wheelchair users for whom some of them were presumably designed, but I forget about other kids of mobility limitations. It’s good to be reminded. 🙂

  3. signing up for “team kriste!”

    i don’t get those yellow cross-ramps either. they’re popping up all over. when I first noticed them I thought it would be great if they were pressure sensitive hands-free walk-signal triggers, but sadly they are not.

    i appreciate your attention to street furniture. the world is a very different place when you remove the steering wheel.

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