On the Pros and Cons of Driveways

Whether driveways are anti-urban or 'anti-pedestrian' depends on how we segregate street uses. As shared spaces where they cross sidewalks, driveways inform the wider question: what makes for a good street?

1 minute read

May 13, 2015, 1:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Japan Shared Space

yamauchi / Flickr

Are driveways anti-urban? That claim makes sense in North America, where pedestrian and vehicle street spaces are seen as mutually exclusive. The driveway, by definition, breaches a divide by allowing cars to cross the sidewalk. The result is often a series of pedestrian-unfriendly curb cuts, where the sidewalk dips to let cars ascend the curb.

The question then becomes: why have a raised curb at all? Historically, curbs provided a space for walkers away from street filth. But now, "with universal street paving, the replacement of beasts of burden by motor vehicles and rainwater collection systems, the reasons for the curb's existence don't seem all that significant." 

The article gives examples of how smaller Japanese streets forgo the curb in favor of shared space for pedestrians, motorists, and cyclists. And on larger streets with high-speed vehicle traffic, physical barriers like trees and poles do a better job keeping cars from sidewalks.

In driveways' defense, the article notes that they can use space more efficiently than roadside parking, clearing the way for features like bike lanes. 

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