As our cities and towns seek to improve streets for bike riders and pedestrians, the focus of the street is moving from the roadway to the kerb.
Kerb space has never been so important as change sweeps through mobility and commerce.
The humble kerb is being called on to solve so many problems: Uber pick-up; e-commerce deliveries; safer tram and bus stops; bike lanes; footpath activation; car share; trees and vegetation.
Not to mention car storage, which has come to dominate the kerb as municipalities grow fat on parking revenue.
Who gets priority when so many users are demanding the same space?
These pressures have resulted in a whole new approach to thinking about and managing the kerb, that could bring major benefits to those who choose active travel.
A recent publication from the Institute of Transport Engineers (ITE), The Curbside Management Practitioners Guide, discusses how to make this transition.
"The kerb space is usually contested and reassigning kerb space for new purposes is often politically fraught”, the ITE says.
"For several decades, kerb space uses and regulations have been assembled piecemeal in response to property and business owners, and overwhelmingly allocated to private vehicle storage.
"The proliferation of shared mobility options like bike share, for-hire vehicles companies, micro-mobility modes, and e-commerce package deliveries has intensified demand for kerb access, and thrown into sharp relief the urgency of managing kerb space as a public asset.
"Shared active transportation has illustrated the need to build safe and comfortable bicycling and walking infrastructure, while for-hire vehicle companies have created both new transportation options and a new set of challenges pertaining to kerb access and congestion management.”
The ITE says that as many cities were developed largely in the era of automobile dominance, bikes were often overlooked as a design vehicle for urban travel.
“Kerbside management strategies typically seek to re-establish cycling as a primary mode which operates in concert with transit to reduce the vehicular demand on many corridors.
"This does, however, often require updated design of the kerbside to accommodate these bicycle facilities."
While the transport engineers involved in this study are all based in the United States, this conversation is very relevant in Australia right now, as new electric ride-share companies introduce themselves to the limited kerbside market.