The 70 year dominance of street kerb space by the parked, private motor car is winding up, eroded by a raft of changes in travel, commerce, logistics, lifestyle, technology, and yes, even climate.
Photographs of our streets taken prior to World War Two can be surprising: thronged with people and trams, trolleys and hand-carts zipping every which way, pedestrians flooding across streets in mid block. And no parked cars.
Footpaths were often wider then too, before they were narrowed to enable car storage.
Now they are being widened again as the managers of cities and towns reverse decades of economic decline by bringing back living streets where people, not cars, will dominate the streetscape.
This shift has made the interface with the kerb one of the most contested spaces in the urban environment.
Everyone wants a piece of it: merchants and cafes, tram and bus stops, freight delivery, waste collectors, taxis and taxi-variants, bike lanes and bike parking, and even shady trees.
The cars don’t stand a chance.
Cities are now increasingly turning to technology to better manage all the hustle and bustle.
Washington DC has just announced the introduction of a hi-tech booking system for deliveries on busy city streets.
It has launched a 12-week pilot project that permits delivery drivers to reserve kerb space in nine areas of the city via a website called curbFlow.
Drivers can reserve space up to 30 minutes in advance and remain as long as they are actively loading or unloading.
Three to five parking spaces will be removed from each of the nine curbFlow locations during the project.
City officials plan to use the data to determine how to better allocate and manage loading zones.
CurbFlow describes its system as “air traffic control for city kerb space.”
Cities that use a reservation system long-term could charge user fees to pay for it and to recoup any revenue lost from eliminating parking meters, a curbFlow spokeswoman said. Taxis and ride-share companies arenʼt permitted to use curbFlow during the test phase.
This comes as online sales have been growing in the US by about 15 percent annually, or nearly doubling about every six years, resulting in a massive increase in deliveries, or attempted deliveries, as many fail at the first attempt.
And trucks park from 6 to 25 minutes on average to make a delivery.
One response is the development of storage lockers inside premises. The driver delivers to just one address and people in the neighbourhood walk or bike down and use a code to get the package out.
Uber, for whom drop-off and pick up is critical, is funding studies on how to make kerbs more productive and efficient.
It has suggested consolidating commercial loading zones to accommodate larger trucks and replacing street parking with more loading and pickup areas.
Cities also could allot kerb space differently, such as for deliveries in the mornings and afternoons, for passenger pickups and drop-offs during busy commuting periods and for resident parking overnight.
Washington DC is also considering requiring new buildings to have larger loading docks and for older buildings to be retrofitted with off-street delivery areas.