When is a curb not a curb? There's a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to road construction.

There are plenty of complaints about the roadways in New York. From the dangerous to the scary, drivers need to stay on their toes. One invention, however, has changed the way roads are built in neighboring states... should New York follow suit?

Cape Cod curbs are an alternative option to use instead of a traditional design
Cape Cod curbs are an alternative option to use instead of a traditional design (bauhaus1000 via Canva)
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What Are "Cape Cod" Curbs?

Cape Cod curbs, which have unsurprisingly gained popularity in New York's neighboring state of Massachusetts, are a type of curb design that's meant to benefit more than just the cars on the road. Its sloped shape (below) makes something possible that traditional curbs can't achieve.

Benefits of Using Cape Cod Curbs

Cape Cod curbs offer a slope (below) instead of a perpendicular angle to the road, which provides a smoother transition between the road and the sidewalk. Many animal advocates applaud the the design for its ability to allow smaller creatures like salamanders or ducklings to escape from speeding cars on roadways. There's several ways they benefit humans, too.

Cape Cod curbs (left) have a sloped transition between the road and the sidewalk, while traditional curbs (right) have a perpendicular angle to the road
Cape Cod curbs (left) have a sloped transition between the road and the sidewalk, while traditional curbs (right) have a perpendicular angle to the road (Canva)
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Benefits of Cape Cod Curbs for Cyclists

Several proponents of the Cape Cod curb highlighted that it's not only animals who can make use of a sloped transition. Cyclists, for example, can often be "stuck" on a road with a high curb, unable to swerve out of the way of a hazard, and people with mobility issues can also benefit from the design. There are some drawbacks, however.

Cape Cod curbs, also known as Cape Cod berms, offer a sloped transition between the road and sidewalk
Cape Cod curbs, also known as Cape Cod berms, offer a sloped transition between the road and sidewalk (mass.gov)
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Benefits of Traditional Curbs in New York

Traditional curbs have several benefits that are absent from their Cape Cod relatives. Floodwaters from heavy rains, for example, are much more easily guided to drains by standard curbs than Cape Cod curbs. Higher curbs also help keep cars on the road, whereas a distracted driver might not notice if they drift up a sloped curb.

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Should New York State Use More Cape Cod Curbs?

Ultimately, both curbs have their benefits and drawbacks, and both are better suited for different areas. Higher curbs help in high traffic areas, while proponents of Cape Cod curbs agree they are better suited for residential areas and roads with less danger of flooding. Whether or not they become popular in New York is yet to be seen... but at least there's a new term to add to the Empire State's vocabulary.

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Gallery Credit: Nick Kessler