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Should We Curb Our Enthusiasm?

Are curbs necessary in low-flow traffic areas, asks one landscape architect?

Australian landscape architect, Bill James, writing on Margaret River Online ( speaks about the design of streets, recommending to dispense with kerbs, as they same down-under, and "finding other, softer, ways of dealing with safety and drainage."

He notes the streets the Romans built are the prototype for modern urban street design. A stone sidewalk in Herculaneum, for instance, had a curb 25 cm high (9.84 in.) Mr. James sees streets as much more that vehicle thoroughfares, that they can be beautiful and functional. He believes curbs, instead of slowing down the traffic, give drivers the impression that "as long as a vehicle is between them, it has free rein." He thinks curbs are appropriate for heavy street traffic, "but unnecessary and dangerous in many smaller low-traffic streets." He adds that drainage can be effectively dealt with without curbs.

"We just have to think about what the kerb is for and recognise that often it is there for no other reason than we have got used to having them," he writes. "Kerbs are meant for urban situations and establish a definite urban character. If we really want to retain a rural character in our towns and settlements we could begin by curbing our use of the all-too-common kerb."

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November 12, 2019, 5:09 am PDT

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