Some real ped improvements, and some not

It is good to be (still) living, in a time when transportation is finally focusing on people who walk, people who cycle, and not just people who drive. Yet to come, of course, is any concern for the people living … Continue reading Some real ped improvements, and some not

Flat public spaces

There is a school of thought that suggests we over-design our urban spaces, particularly roads. Too many signs, too many curbs, too many traffic lights, all serve to disengage the motorist. Remove all that, leave the space “naked”, with fewer clues about what to do, mix the pedestrians and motorists, and everyone will be mutually respectful. The rule of eye contact and courtesy replaces rulebooks and enforcement. A good place to try something like this might be very short dead end streets. They have little traffic volume, low speeds, and presumably most of the motorists live on the street too. … Continue reading Flat public spaces

Traffic calming that is serious

I feel that much of what Ottawa does as “traffic calming” is badly compromised by a desire not to inconvenience the motorist at all, while purporting to make the street calmer and safer for everyone else. Case in point: a traffic calming centre island proposed for Booth near Raymond. The design concept was approved by council years ago, but funding has finally come available. So the traffic engineers get to do the detailed design. Well, that island, you know, is just awful. To get big trucks around it they’d need to widen the road, increase the curb radii at intersections, … Continue reading Traffic calming that is serious

Red chair at the wasserfall

  I was impressed by the quantity of “art installations” in the Black Forest region of Germany. They were everywhere, sometimes in popular places and sometimes in isolated places. They were even in villages with a population of six. After hiking to this natural wasserfall scenic spot, I was surprised to see the bright red benches competing for attention. Plaques identified them as an art installation. An interactive art installation. See below for how some elderly escaped garden gnomes abused the artist’s concept: Frightening.   Continue reading Red chair at the wasserfall

Small town suburbs, the German way

Kirchzarten, Germany:  this town is small. Population 10,000. It is big enough and old enough to have its own “main street” town centre that is viable and attractive. It is also close enough to Freiburg and Basel that it is in their commuter shed, and is connected by frequent regional rail services. The town is growing, and has its “new section”. Not way out in a field, but snuggled up close to the existing town. Roads and paths continue from old areas into the new. Kids still walk to school; others cycle to the banhof or walk to shop “the … Continue reading Small town suburbs, the German way

Safe, secure, protected … bike parking

Kirchzarten, Germany:  At the local banhof (train station) there is a very large bike parking area that is covered from rain or snow.   The rack design looked excellent to me, as it provided a strong steel bar beside the bike upon which to lock the frame. The overflow parking area also had good quality racks:   I have no clue why the front tire is elevated in these racks: Kinda made me wonder about the amount and quality of bike parking planned for the new LRT stations in Ottawa. Continue reading Safe, secure, protected … bike parking

Blankies for the cafe crowd

Kirchzarten, Germany:  Jan Gehl recounts in his books about civilizing cities that just a few years ago no one thought streetside cafe culture could be imported from warmer climes to cooler northern cities. But it was a case of build them and they will come. Heaters, glass windbreaks, very large overhead umbrellas … all work to make outdoor spaces more comfy. So do blankets. At 9.30pm his cafe in Kirchgarten has just brought out a pile of blankets for patrons.   Has anyone experienced a free blankie at an Ottawa bar, patio or cafe? Continue reading Blankies for the cafe crowd

Bike racks, like daisies in the fields…

Kirchzarten, Germany:   Bike racks seldom look great. When they do, they stand out so much and make us realize how “blah” the ordinary racks are. Most of the racks I am seeing in Germany are those dreadful “front tire” racks. But in front of this high school and community sports centre, the racks were broken apart and each bike is singly parked out in a field. The result was surprisingly sculptural. It also avoided paving an area.   I suspect people can make use of this field of pipes for other purposes. Like giant croquet. Continue reading Bike racks, like daisies in the fields…

Concrete trees, sort of

Karlsruhe, Germany:  a main highway swiftly changes from rural surroundings to the denser urban environment as it enters a city. To help slow traffic, local planners bring tree planting right close to the curbs on both sides of the street. The tree canopy closes in overhead, making the roadway look and feel less open. Traffic speeds slow. Down the centre median, trees are also planted to complete the canopy. Between the trees are the standard concrete light posts for the overhead highway lighting. These have been “greened”, quite effectively creating additional “trees” down the boulevard. It was surprisingly effective. And … Continue reading Concrete trees, sort of