If you haven’t already, this post will make more sense if you read the origin of my quest and I Spy, parts , , , and . It is also worth taking a look at the NSPE code of ethics that is the standard guide for professional engineers in the United States.
Fundamental canon #5 (of 6): Engineers, in the fulfillment of their professional duties, shall avoid deceptive acts.
Context sensitive solutions (CSS) or context sensitive design (CSD) have surged in popularity over the past few years. Planning and engineering consultants use the terms as often as possible as a way to prove their familiarity with trends and the state of the practice. But…please be warned. Not all so-called CSS/CSD concepts are cut from the same cloth.
The intersection pictured below is one of 3 gateway intersections to a major commercial development. The major street is posted at 35 MPH (56 KPH). The final design of this street is described as CSD because ADA ramps and cross-walks are installed. Best case, that is a naive statement. Worst case, it is an intentionally deceptive statement. Whether you happen to be able-bodied or wheelchair-bound, you will move the length of a football field to reach the opposite corner of the intersection. And no–vehicles do not generally obey the 35 MPH posted speed limit, as you might guess. The road is designed to “appropriate” standards, meaning 50-55 MPH is quite comfortable for drivers.
ADA curb cuts and cross-walks do not in and of themselves equal CSS/CSD. So when you hear an engineer talk about their latest plan to accommodate pedestrians or bikes – ask questions. Lots of questions.