Minneapolis’ New Sidewalk Cuts Are Lame

Minneapolis' New Sidewalk Ramps

Some time in recent years, Minneapolis changed the texture of the ramp in their sidewalk cuts. The above photo is an example of what the city is using these days. I happened to grab this photo at 46th Ave S & Lake St E but I’ve seen them used throughout the city in areas with new streets and curbs.

Before using this style, the ramp down to the street from sidewalk height was relatively smooth. In some cases, it was poured concrete. In others, it was a slightly rough surface made up of small rocks.

So, why is the new version with golf ball sized pimples lame? Because it’s difficult to rollerblade over. Small wheels and big bumps don’t mix.

This is particularly problematic on the Northern section of the Grand Rounds. Over the weekend, Carly and I looped from the Stone Arch bridge up past the U of MN, Diagonal Trail, Stinson, St. Anthony, Weber, Victory Memorial, and Wirth Parkways, then back on the Cedar Lake trail on blades.

The new Grand Rounds paths are awesome . . . with one exception. Every road crossing sucks on rollerblades because you have to deal with two of these bumpy sidewalk cuts. Frankly, for most rollerbladers, it’s enough to make the otherwise awesome paths unusable.

I imagine there were some decent reasons for the change to this particular surface. If you know, I’d love to hear it.

19 thoughts on “Minneapolis’ New Sidewalk Cuts Are Lame”

  1. I’m guessing the reasoning is along these lines:
    http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/enable/designm/AD1-05.htm

    3.9 Surface and colour

    *Curb ramps, including flares, should have a rough texture or ground pattern to make them detectable and slip-resistant.

    *The surface colour should be distinct and should contrast with the surrounding surfaces to guide pedestrians with limited vision.

    But you have to wonder about the unintended consequences. I’d imagine the aggressive texture causes at least a few falls throughout the year – how does that compare to limited vision pedestrians walking into traffic? Also, I’ve seen some metal ones that are crazy slick when wet. Pedestrians are probably OK, but if you’re on wheels, there’s a good chance you’re going down.

  2. Those seem pretty standard designs (I think the LRT uses a very similar design) to help the blind know where road crossings are. I guess it’s hard to balance the needs of all users.

  3. Can’t you do some fancy footwork and run your wheels between the bumps? Maybe add a little handjive while your at it.

    Sorry Ed the benifits to the blind and it’s ability to counter slipping probably outweigh its adverse effect on rollerbladers.

  4. ryanol, the fancy footwork that seems to work best it to go to either side of the bumps, jump off a slight drop, then jump up the other side. A moderately advanced move.

    Providing a safe crossing system for the blind seems very reasonable to me. This appears to be an unintended consequence that hurts elitist rollerbladers like myself.

  5. The “truncated dome” is Mn/DOT’s standard design and is required to meet ADA standards (or, I guess I’m not sure it’s the ONLY way to meet ADA standards, but it’s the ONLY method I’ve ever seen…) It is primarily for the visually impaired.

  6. I’m envisioning a right foot forward left foot backward..sort of a Demi-plié ballet move on wheels with a little jazz hands….with your wheels right between the rows of raised bumps.

  7. This needs study. Elitist Rollerbladers with Jazz Hands vs. Visually Impaired Pedestrians at Textured and Untextured Curb Cuts. Someone call Tom Vanderbilt. Stat.

  8. When I went to Japan last year, I saw this taken a whole lot further — in addition to the textured ramp in sidewalk cuts, there would often be a narrow (about a foot wide or so) path with this texture running down the middle of sidewalks and even winding throughout train stations to platforms, escalators, etc. Considering how many elderly people they have in their country who likely have poor vision, it made sense.

  9. I’ll chime in with a simpathetic observation…
    As a novice rollerblader, I encountered these rediculous obstacles last year as well. They are quite disruptive I must concur. Also I find their professed added traction dubious. Perhaps it’s really just a cover for a deterent to “nuissance” activities like roller-blading and skateboarding.

  10. Brian- They’re not meant as traction as much as they are meant as a signal to the blind that there is a crossing at this location. That, and it’s meant to stop people from rollerblading. Because rollerblading is weird.

  11. Like Tim said, horrors in Tokyo. The bottoms of my feet are sensitive so I cannot walk on these except in heavy shoes.

  12. Before I forget, this obstacle course was in Shin-Yokohama rather than Tokyo. Please say Minneapolis won’t try it. (I haven’t tried walking on St. Paul’s poetry sidewalks.)

  13. These are hardly the worst curb cuts.

    I’ve encountered some curb cuts on bike paths where the suburban fathers decided to save money at odd intervals by putting one at the apex of the corner instead of one each at the two crossing points. This not only confuses the blind, it puts a real crimp in your bike frame.

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