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What is a Curb Cut?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A curb cut is a design feature in a sidewalk that creates a smooth transition from the sidewalk to the street with a slope instead of an abrupt drop. Curb cuts are also known as curb ramps. They are a common feature in municipal design around the world, and in some regions, like the United States, they are required by law for accessibility reasons to ensure that people with disabilities can safely navigate sidewalks.

The curb cut is made by cutting into the sidewalk and creating a sloped incline. Curb cuts compliant with accessibility standards have a slope of no greater than 8.33%. Wheelchair and scooter users can easily move from the sidewalk to a crosswalk with a curb cut, instead of having to jump a curb and put themselves in danger. Curb cuts are also convenient for parents with strollers, delivery people with dollies, and people on skateboards.

Curb cuts typically provide a way to access crosswalks, whether they are located at intersections or in the middle of a long block. People also construct curb cuts to provide a way for cars to reach parking lots and driveways. In these cases, the curb cut will be larger so that vehicles can fit on it. As an alternative to installing a curb cut, people can also build out a ramp; this method is sometimes used when sidewalk reconstruction is too expensive.

Usually a curb cut is designated as a no parking zone. This is designed to ensure that safe access to a crosswalk is not blocked by a vehicle that obstructs pedestrians trying to move from the curb cut to the street. Curb cuts are also kept free of benches, planters, and other decorative elements that may be allowed on other areas of the sidewalk. In areas with on-street garbage pickup, residents are usually advised to make sure that their garbage cans are not placed on curb cuts as this will inconvenience pedestrians.

Some people may have noted that curb cuts, especially newer ones, are surrounded with textured concrete or rumble strips made from other materials like plastics. These features are designed for the convenience of blind and visually impaired pedestrians. The change in texture alerts pedestrians to the fact that they are approaching a curb cut and that the slope of the sidewalk will change. They can opt to follow the curb cut out into the street, or to walk past.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

By mrwormy — On Dec 21, 2014

I've noticed that on some roads in my city, there are curb cuts every thirty feet or so. They don't really lead to anything, but they look like they were planned from the beginning. I suspect the city planners were creating driveway curb ramps and parking lot curb cuts in anticipation of future growth. If someone decided to build a new house or small business in an empty lot, he or she would need to have the sidewalk curb modified anyway.

By Phaedrus — On Dec 20, 2014

My church had to create a curb cut when it designated a few parking spots as handicapped spaces. I remember there was a lot of discussion among the trustees because of the projected cost. It didn't look like a difficult thing to accomplish, but it turned out to be much more complicated than we expected. The one company in town that did that kind of work quoted us an unbelievably high price to create a ADA-approved curb cut.

The alternative was to create a curb ramp, but it would have to extend quite a ways from the original sidewalk curb in order to be ADA compliant. It would almost look like a speed hump in the middle of the lane when it was finished. The church decided to go with the original curb cut design.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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