There’s a disturbing trend on the streets these days that is as dangerous as it is unnecessary. No, I’m not referring to Drake’s “In My Feelings” Challenge (age check, everyone). The fad I find most disturbing concerns the razor-sharp curbs that local towns are installing on the sides of our roads. It’s as if someone in Town Hall decided, “We need to make driving more like a video game.”
Many of us have had the experience of driving down a road when an oncoming car comes too close to our lane. We swerve a bit to our right to get out of the way before realizing we were heading straight into the granite teeth of these curbside fangs. It’s enough to make me rummage for my tire warranty after every trip.
Curbs have been used since Pompeii, but became staples of road management in 18th century London. In the beginning, small wooden pegs were set up to separate the area of the street reserved for pedestrians from that meant for road traffic. They were also used to prevent vehicles from parking on sidewalks or lawns while providing a channel for water to flow into drains. Curbs can even provide some redirection for low-speed vehicle accidents. Pedestrians feel just a little bit safer with them, even if most of that safety is an illusion.
In other words, curbs weren’t always meant to be the tire-eating menace that some have become.
As time went on, however, they soon evolved into the bane of the unobservant (or those using shopping carts and wheelchairs) until the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which mandated the curb cuts we enjoy today. Even so, one could still pull off an awkward three-point parking maneuver with only a tire smudge to show for it when the rounded asphalt bumps were the only obstacle.
Today, stone curbs have become more popular because the granite slabs are durable and especially resistant to the de-icing salts that coat Fairfield County roadways all winter. They’re attractive, providing a little curb appeal that seems to accent the New England vistas they inhabit. They also slice through a tire’s sidewall easier than a knife through a cupcake.
The consequences of swerving out of the way for that squirrel or cat have gotten significantly more expensive. There’ll be a lot more dead skunks in the middle of the road now that these side hazards have become more dangerous than a Gaza checkpoint.
Cheers to whoever decided that our commutes needed something else to stress about. What happened to the days when we’d paint a few rocks and place them at the edge of the road if people were parking illegally? Drivers could still make a few mistakes but drive away to live another day. Today, we’d be safer with razor wire along the roadsides.
I can’t wait to see the Godzilla vs. King Kong battle that will pit our road snow plowers against these curbside knives. Will the snowplows sand the edges down to safe levels, or will the curbsides prove so dangerous that the drivers will avoid them at all costs (narrowing the width of passable road in the process)? We’ve yet to have that big snowfall this season that would bring this battle to the fore.
My money’s on the curbsides, as is yours, like it or not. Let’s hope our towns placed the right bet.