Curiosity

Here’s The Purpose Of Those Sidewalk Bumps

They aren't there for traction, as we thought.

You’ve probably noticed the raised, bumpy patterns where the sidewalk ends. You might also have wondered why they are there in the first place. No, it’s no for traction in bad weather. How about durability? That would be a good guess. But, even though you could consider durability a bonus feature, that is not the function, either.

Turns out there’s a very good reason, but it’s not what you may think it is.

tactile tiles
Transplanet Blog

Tactile Paving

Those blister-like bumps, also known as “truncated domes and detectible warning pavers,” are a part of “tactile paving” (meaning: paving that can be felt). It helps the visually impaired detect when they are about to leave the sidewalk and enter the street.

These ground indicators are also sometimes known as braille paving. These textured tiles make it easier for people to feel changes in patterns and textures. These changes signal changes in a path, including a curb or a change in direction.

Adobe

They can feel the change in texture on the ground below them and know to stop before proceeding to cross the street. In this video, you can see how a braille pathway can make a difference in getting around for the visually impaired.

For people who are visually impaired but still have partial sight, the bright yellow or red coloring on those sidewalk bumps also helps to alert them that the sidewalk is coming to an end.

Depending on where you are in the U.S. or other countries, you’ll find different tactile paving patterns.

Here’s a video that’ll help break it down for you.

What Do The Patterns Mean?

OK, so there are different bumps and patterns—but what do they all mean? Just as in the Braille language, each type of pattern has a significant meaning to the visually impaired.

Here’s a look at a few of the different patterns you’ll see out on the sidewalks and roadways.

1. Offset dots

This pattern—with dots positioned in diagonal lines—indicates a train track or other ledge ahead, like these at a track edge in Alexandria, Virginia.

SchuminWeb/Wikipedia

2. Lozenge-shaped bumps

Oblong or lozenge-shaped bumps indicate that you’re approaching the tracks of a street trolley, tram or other street-level transportation. So, these shaped-tiles help keep visually impaired people from wandering off platforms and sidewalks when using public transportation. These bumps save people’s lives.

See the example below from PavingExpert.com.

 

Paving Expert

 

3. Stripes across a path

Stripes that run across a path signal steps or other trip hazards ahead.

You’ll commonly find these before a staircase, for example.

EyeLovingCharity.org.uk

RELATED: Here’s The Clever Reason Medieval Castle Staircases Are Always Clockwise

4. Stripes along a path

Stripes that follow a path indicate a safe path.

Those who are visually impaired know to follow the stripes in order to steer clear of obstacles.

Adobe

Tactile paving first showed up in Japan in the late 1960s.

And Japan still leads the way in accessibility options, like in the subway below.

Tactile paving markers Japan subway
Lerk via CC

China has also installed “blind lanes” on many of their sidewalks to assist the visually impaired.  In fact, in 2001 the China’s central government mandated the construction of these pathways across the country. This included some of the most popular tourist areas such as Beijing and the Great Wall of China.

In some countries, they are starting to install lighted street patterns to better signal the visually impaired.

Because, to the point made in the video segment above, only a small portion (3 percent) of those who are visually impaired are 100 percent blind, which is why it’s important to make tactile indicators as visible as possible for those with limited eyesight.

via GIPHY

Here in the U.S., some say there’s still not enough accessibility despite the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passing back in 1990.

In some places, tactile pavers match the sidewalk color or are a more subdued color, making them less visible to those with eyesight issues.

Sometimes the braille-like pathways aren’t set up clearly or safely.

RELATED: Check Out This Solar-Powered Bike Path That Glows In The Dark

But when those bumpy patterns are used correctly, they allow for a more accessible and safe street layout. It can also mean a greater level of independence for people wanting to get out in the community, but struggle because of their vision.

That’s important when “there are tons of metal speeding past you,” as the video host Tom Scott says.

sidewalk bumps photo
Flickr | torbakhopper

Tiny Jean Pocket

Another of life’s greatest mysteries: Have you ever wondered what the tiny pocket on the right side of your jeans is for?

You know, the little pocket-within-a-pocket that doesn’t seem like it could hold even a single key? Seems useless, right? Well, these little pouches actually have a purpose!

jeans photo
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

The technical name for the micro-pocket is “watch pocket,” and back in the day, it served as protection for pocket watches, which were a very common accessory in the late 19th century, when jeans first came into fashion.

According to Levi & Strauss, the pockets can hold a few other small items, and have also been referred to as the condom pocket, match pocket and ticket pocket.

Today, some people try to get their smartphone in the tiny space. Depending on the phone, that could work. However, you should be careful, because those phones have a tendency to pop out of those tiny pockets!

jeans pocket photo
Flickr | twicepix