Color is issue on curb cuts

September 25, 2012
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When city officials sought public input on the materials used to construct pedestrian ramps within Boston’s historical districts Wednesday, the conversation at City Hall quickly turned to the most appropriate color for the tactile strips in the curb cuts.

The Public Works Department is currently repaving streets citywide and required under federal law to install ADA-compliant ramps at signalized intersections, and around 10 percent of the approximately 20,000 structures would be located in historic districts, officials said.

Kristin McCosh, the city’s commissioner of Persons with Disabilities, said a shade of yellow lighter than the federal hue had been deemed as the safest and most visible choice for the smooth, concrete tactile-strips that would adorn the ramps, but representatives of the historic neighborhoods weren’t sold on the proposed color preference.

“A darker red would fit in better…like the same color used in Philadelphia’s historic districts,” said Rob Whitney, a Phillips Street resident and Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA) board member. “I think the city should be using red [exclusively].”

BHCA Chairman Steve Young echoed Whitney’s sentiments, although he said the Civic Association has yet to take a position on the matter.

“There is no voice in favor of yellow in any hue in the Beacon Hill district,” Young said. “In terms of red, I would agree, although we haven’t taken a position that dark red would be preferable.” While city officials said they preferred using a uniform color for the tactile strips citywide, Kathleen McDermott of the Bay Village Historic District suggested using a different hue to differentiate the historic districts from the other parts of the city.

“The historic neighborhoods are the bedrock of the city’s potent economic engine, and the brick sidewalks attract tourists to the city,” McDermott said. “The historic districts should not be the same to demarcate them as the city’s heritage and endowment, which brings thousands of people here and makes us all wealthy.”

Following a recommendation from State Rep. Marty Walz, Joanne Massaro, commissioner of the Public Works Department, asked those in attendance to try reach a consensus within their neighborhoods and report their findings back to the city by the first week of October before work begins in the South End.

  • CPS

    The reason most other cities use yellow is because it’s easier for people with disabilities to see (contrast with sidewalk). What is more important to BH residents: safety or a shade of color????

    PS “the bedrock of the city’s potent economic engine”???? Some other neighborhoods (including those with curb cuts) might disagree.

  • Janice Ward

    I believe safety should be the main concern , no matter what neighborhood or district one is in.Yellow is the easiest to see and should therefore be used.How attractive would an historic or any district be with people falling and hurting themselves because they couldn’t distinguish the curb cut from the sidewalk ?Equal access equals civil rights.

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