Kerb ramps (or kerb cuts) are critical for letting all people cross the road. If you have a pram, walker, wheelchair, mobility scooter or wheeled luggage, they let you safely descend from the pavement to the carriageway (road surface). This means the majority of people will need kerb ramps at some stage of their life.
Kerb ramps need to be wide. In areas of high foot traffic, it can be a struggle for multiple people with prams to funnel through a one-metre wide kerb ramp when crossing the road. A narrow kerb ramp acts as a bottleneck when several people with prams want to cross the road. No-one likes that rushed feeling when crossing a road, especially when you have a child in a pram with you. In comparison, intersections like the revamped Oxford Circus in London look like a relief for a parent or grandparent with a pram – look at those wondrous low kerbs! No bottlenecks or unnecessary queueing for a kerb ramp!
Sydney is slowly getting more and better kerb ramps, but progress needs to accelerate.
Another good option, particularly for crossing a minor road or lane at an intersection, is to have a raised threshold, where the road surface rises to the level of the pavement. Vehicles go over a bump before entering the when turning the corner. This has the advantage of slowing vehicles and creating a sense for vehicle drivers that they are entering the space of pedestrians, rather than the default sensation that pedestrians are entering vehicles’ space. An example can be found at the Broadway Shopping Centre.
The City of Darebin in Victoria now installs raised threshold treatments at all local/arterial road intersections when road resurfacing occurs.
The bottom line is that councils need to build accessible pavements. Every time there is construction of new pavements or repair of existing pavements, either wide kerb ramps with tactile ground surface indicators (those colourful plastic circles that indicate a crossing is near) or raised thresholds should be built.
We need to fix our streets, especially when they look like this: