By Sara Runge: How often do you buy a car and then realize when you are driving down the street that every other car you see is the same make, model, and color as the car you just bought? Or find yourself examining roof colors to see if the shingles you just picked out to replace your 20+ year old roof will look good with the brick, gutters, and soffit color on your house? Last summer I found myself looking at highway guardrail while driving down I-44 since I was working on a project that required new guardrail, modified guardrail, crash-worthy ends, etc. Yes, I truly was looking at highway guardrail to better understand the various types used and the instances in which they were applied. In addition, I took mental notes of the areas where I felt guardrail was missing and maneuvered into the adjacent lane. As I get older, I have become more of a visual learner, and looking at how others have implemented design elements is beneficial to understanding various approaches. The next time you are on the Gravois Greenway notice the new guardrail along Highway 55 designed to keep I-55 users and greenway users safe.
This summer during my daily walk or run I’ve been looking at ADA elements in the built landscape such as sidewalks, street crossings, etc. and have noticed that even though the Americans with Disabilities Act has been around for a while, there is a long way to go before compliance is met. These are a handful of situations designers should pay attention too:
- Sidewalks are often too narrow or impeded with power poles, traffic signs or other permanent and sometimes temporary appurtenances which prohibit people with disabilities the ability to maneuver.
- Truncated domes are required prior to crossing a street but sometimes they are missing or improperly placed.
- Sidewalk running slopes and cross slopes are often too steep. As designers, we need to properly detail these elements in our construction documents so that when they are constructed, they will meet the proper requirements. Always design a cross slope to be 1.5% rather than 2%; design a running slope to be 4% rather than 5%; and make sure there is a visual contrast between the truncated domes and surrounding pavement.
While these items are not the most beautiful aspects of the projects, so many existing items require retrofitting to meet ADA standards. It is often a puzzle but as landscape architects, we should make sure the implemented designs will meet the requirements.