The Usability of Curbs

When I first learned driving, what most worried me was left turns, especially in the inside lane. Why is this a problem?

Cars do not turn at 90 degree angles! Why are curbs made like this? Some curbs are good: here in Albuquerque, the left turn from San Mateo to Academy features a nice, rounded curb. Contrast this with another left from I-25 to Montgomery, where an obnoxious 90 degree curb is crumbling—from large trucks slamming into it, I like to think.

Speaking of bad road design, it's well known that bad usability kills, in this case, John Denver in the experimental plane he was flying. Just up the road from the "nice curb" on San Mateo [Link updated to Yahoo! maps 03/25/2004] the road is inclined, creating a decent optical illusion of two lanes. A large, crude-looking sign at the exit warns about the existence of three lanes. This exit is shared by a Taco Cabana and an upscale car dealership [Update: 09/18/2003: The Upscale car dealership link was removed, since it appear no longer to exist] that uses frames.

This frame usage obscures that the finance form is really submitted securely. All many users see is a warning that you're ending up on a non-secure page after having visited a secure page, people might be trying to steal your info, do you mind? This is because they are using a third party provider and the thanks page is back on the original auto dealer site.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, June 6, 2002 (Link)


Posted by Jack Tuesday, June 11, 2002 at 09:51 AM

I have never had a problem with right-angle curbs. I'll venture a guess that a rounded curb may interfer with bike lanes. Where does a bicyclist wait at an intersection with a rounded curb when there's a car that may make a right-turn on a red light?

My gripe is when you're in your car at a stop sign trying to cross a street with traffic that does not have to stop and there is a blind spot -- parked cars, shrubs, or a building -- blocking your view of the oncoming traffic. You have to inch your car out into the intersection to see whether it's safe to cross (and hope that no one tries to turn onto your street and smack your bumper). Wouldn't it be nice if cars came equipped with front bumper mirrors you could raise so you could see what is happening on the cross street?

I also want refrigerated coolers in the trunk of every car, but that's another story.

Posted by Chad Lundgren Tuesday, June 11, 2002 at 07:04 PM

The 90 degree curbs trouble me less on right turns than they do on left turns. I don't think I've ever actually hit a curb on a left turn, but it still can be anxiety-inducing.

Good point on the blocked view. It's also a legal liability: here in Albuquerque, someone sued the city over an obscured stop sign. Because trees blocked a driver seeing it, an accident with fatalities occurred, and the plaintiff won millions of dollars.

Okay, new car-related rant: The power locks on my new(ish) car has, for me at any rate, 0 memorability factor. It's a 50/50 crap shot. It's back for lock or maybe forwards for lock. I'm thinking that "down" for lock, "up" for unlock would be more intuitive, back on the old-fashioned locks. The "rolling the windows down" lock has down as the "off" position. And, a mini-rant: I will not buy a car that will not let me turn off the "automatically turn on a light when you open the door" behavior.

As for trunks, when I decided to get supplies for my trunk, I bought two gallons of bottled water and a big box of Rice Krispie Treats(R).

Posted by Jack Wednesday, June 12, 2002 at 09:33 AM

Another car rant... Why did the designers of the Subaru Legacy (and I bet Outback) position the cup holder in front of the radio, air conditioner, etc. controls?

#1 When the cup holder is in use, you cannot use the dash buttons / dials without moving the cup.

#2 When your cup spills liquid, it goes all over the dash and all your buttons get sticky. Then you have to take your car in to have the buttons cleaned and a new cup holder installed because you forcibly yanked the other one out when it wouldn't come out easily because it was stuck.

Yeah, that's right, my car is at the shop this morning. I can't believe I didn't consider usability when test-driving. This issue should have been obvious. It became obvious during my first visit to a drive-thru window.