Curb connoisseur

My sometimes traveling companion Brandon makes fun of me thinking I only travel to check out the curbs in every city. It started when we visited Portland together and yes, my camera was often aimed towards the ground. Here is a roundup of what curbs look like in other cities – I could only find these five photos that really focus on the kerb. :)

Starting in Chicago, Illinois


A curb and ADA-accessible ramp in Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The City of Chicago, as part of a lawsuit, agreed to renovate thousands of curb cuts across town that did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1993. This particular location was more involved than others because of the real brick crosswalk. It had to be removed and then replaced after the level of the street was raised.

Moving west to Portland, Oregon


In a long walking tour of Portland, Oregon, with PBOT worker Greg Raisman, we came across my first ever mountable curb. It’s a raised part of the street and motorists in small vehicles will probably avoid driving on it. It was installed because this is part of a truck route and it’s easy for truck drivers to roll on top of it without driving on the sidewalk.

Jumping south to Tucson, Arizona


A typical bumpout or curb extension, as seen in Tucson, Arizona. This design is not unique to Tucson, but I point it out because this one comes with accompanying signage telling people bicycling and driving that they must stop when they see a person trying to cross the street.

Taking the train over to San Francisco, California


An atypical situation in San Francisco, California, (not the tracks, but the way the tracks terminate in a mound of danger) that I hope gets corrected right away. In downtown San Francisco, there are very wide crosswalks made with colored stone that sets it apart from the rest of the roadway. But the sidewalk ramps are still very narrow. Also, granite curbs are more slippery than concrete. This all just seems like a bad situation, but it looks pretty.

Flying the long way to Milan, Italy


I have it on good authority that Julius Caesar was at the curb dedication ceremony here in Milan, Italy, and saw far into the future people chatting about bicycles on the sidewalk.

Crawling a little north to Amsterdam, Netherlands


Curbs in Amsterdam, Netherlands, play a vital role in a calm and managed all-mode transportation system. Here the curb is a ramp up onto the sidewalk and separated bike lane that leads into a neighborhood street. Mounting the curb should signal to the driver that they are entering a different space that has different rules and responsibilities.

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About Steven Vance

Enthusiast for urbanism, bicycling as transportation, and open data. Building a bicycle culture in Chicago.
  • Daniel Howard

    “This all just seems like a bad situation, but it looks pretty.”

    I have thought that to myself about certain ladies I have known, whom I guess can now be compared to pedestrian crossings in San Francisco. Nice!


    • Steven Vance


      I’m glad you enjoyed that line.

  • RyanC

    I enjoyed your illustrations. I just thought I’d mention one downside to Chicago-style ADA compliance, at least as it applies to … Chicago. By having sidewalks slope down to gutter level and then letting the crosswalk slope back up across the dome of the roadway, the ADA ramp becomes a huge puddle, particularly when snowpiles block the drains. Perhaps CDOT officials will come to the Curb Connoisseur, and re-think this situation. Much better to raise the walk a bit at the gutter, so that water drains away from the walkway rather than into it. This might require a re-think on how water on the arc of the corner drains, but even if some water collected there, it would be better than the status quo.

    • Steven Vance

      In the 2009-2010 curb ramp rebuilding, the street level at the curb was raised up closer to the curb ramp so that the ADA-compliant ramp slope could be achieved. This has most visibly happened in the Loop where there are many intersections that have very high curbs and there wasn’t enough room in the sidewalk to create the ADA-compliant slope, so you may have noticed wide swaths of roadway being removed and reconstructed – this means the street level was being raised.

      I will look in my photo library to see if I have an example of this.