November 14, 2007

#01-037: Crossing the Boulevard: From Curb to Median and Back

Roxas Boulevard at Quirino in Manila, The Philippines
Note lanes, median strip, crosswalk, black-and-white curb on far corner

Note: A wide street, sometimes called a "boulevard," is made up of many parallel pieces. Here are the names of most of them.

Get Ready: Are there large streets where you live, the kind we call "boulevards"? How would you describe the parts of a street you see when you cross it?

Let's look at some common terms to describe roadways for people on foot.

First, let's cross the street at street level, that is, not using any bridges or tunnels.

We start out on the sidewalk. This is the area along the side of the road designed for non-vehicular traffic--that means "no cars or motorized bikes." In some cities the sidewalks are split into bicycle lanes and pedestrian lanes. (A pedestrian is a walker, a person on foot.) Sometimes people fail to observe these markings, so we always have to watch out for bicycles.

Leaving the sidewalk, we step off the curb. This is the concrete strip that defines the edge of the road. Next to the curb is the gutter, designed to carry water. It often has drains to take the water away.

A small street, of course, will seldom have a sidewalk, curbs, or gutters. And crossing such a street is simple. But let's say we're crossing a major street, or boulevard.

We should be using a crosswalk, or pedestrian crossing. In some cities these are called "zebra crossings" because they are painted with stripes.

We will cross several lanes. The one closest to the curb is called the "slow lane." This usually carries the slower traffic, like heavy trucks. The one closest to the center of the road is the "fast lane." If the road only has two lanes in each direction, the fast lane is sometimes called the "passing lane." (This is because driving etiquette calls for staying in the slow lane unless you are passing.)

OK, you've made it across the first set of lanes. On some boulevards, you would now be in a median strip, or center island. In some places, the road is so wide you might need to take a break there! SOme even have another button to press to trip the signal.

Of course, if you happen to be on a one-way street, then there is no median strip, as traffic moves only in one direction.

Now we simply reverse our progress: fast lane, slow lane, gutter, curb, and sidewalk again.

There are several other ways to cross a street besides at street level. You might take a footbridge, or pedestrian overpass. You could also take an underpass, or pedestrian tunnel. (Never say "overbridge"; it's redundant. All bridges are over. And there's no such word as "underbridge." It's a tunnel.)

Whether you're going over or under, you may have to use the stairs. If you have a bike, though, it's best if there's a ramp, a smooth upward or downward path to roll your bike along.

One more thing: Never try to cross the street in a traffic circle (also called a rotary or roundabout). Follow it around the edges!

Let's place the "strips" in order:

  • sidewalk
    • curb
      • gutter and drains
        • slow lane
          • fast lane
            • median
          • fast lane
        • slow lane
      • gutter and drains
    • curb
  • sidewalk


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. curb
  2. drains
  3. fast lane
  4. gutter
  5. lanes
  6. median strip
  7. one-way street
  8. pedestrian
  9. ramp
  10. sidewalk
  11. slow lane
  12. stairs

  1. "pathways" for cars, bicycles, or even people
  2. a street that only carries traffic in one direction
  3. center "island" between the two sets of lanes in a boulevard
  4. the place for cars that's farthest from the center of the road (nearest the sidewalk)
  5. a place for a person to push a bicycle up or down (without stairs)
  6. a concrete strip along the edge of the street
  7. a person on foot; a walker
  8. places that carry water away from the street
  9. next to the curb, it carries water to the drains
  10. used by a pedestrian to climb up or walk down (not a ramp)
  11. a place for pedestrians to travel along a street
  12. the place for cars that's nearest to the center of the road

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for November 14, 2007

This lesson received 77 visits on my old site between January, 2012, and June, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. f; 2. h; 3. l; 4. i; 5. a; 6. c; 7. b; 8. g; 9. e; 10. k; 11. d; 12. j