On separating cars and pedestrians

I hope readers haven’t been too bored with the ongoing series of stories of how well some cities protect / separate pedestrians from motorists. Here’s another example, where a series of large granite bollards not only delineate the separation, but provide an enormous measure of subjective safety. Don’t you just feel comfortable on this sidewalk, that no motorist is going to take it over for a “just for a moment” parking space, or a careless overrun of the curb that leaves the motorist unscathed (so much redundancy is put into road design to protect the motorist, usually by transferring the … Continue reading On separating cars and pedestrians

Example of a simple big-crosswalk

OK, I’ve wondered (and bitched)  bit about the cacophony of crossing markings at Fifth and the QED. So what are other options? In the above pic, there is a bi-directional bike path leading to the intersection in the foreground. A lateral shift, what laypeople might call a severe jog, in the bike path encourages cyclists to slow down at the intersection. Built in traffic calming. The cross street sidewalk is brick, so there is a colour and texture identification. And for the cyclists and pedestrians on the street we are standing on, there is one giant zebra-striped crossing. Not a … Continue reading Example of a simple big-crosswalk

Complexity confuses

  Is it just me, or is there a fresh proliferation of new symbols and signs we are supposed to recognize and obey?  I find a lot of them not very clear at all. The new pedestrian crosswalk and cyclist crossride at Fifth and the Canal is an overdue intersection improvement and I am grateful that it is there. And I look forward to a lot more safe crossings in our road-traffic-dominated city. But the proliferation of symbols and signs is a sight to behold. Look at the above pic. The nearest crosswalk is marked with solid white lines and … Continue reading Complexity confuses

Putting pedestrians first at intersections

Yesterday I self-indulged in a bit of bitch about how the City makes intersections safer for motor vehicles at the expense of pedestrians: Look at almost any intersection. The City locates the signal posts back from the curb line, for the safety of motorists. But then directs pedestrians to stand in the same spot where they deem it too dangerous to place a wooden or steel post.  Allright, the natural question is what could be done to make it better? My first response is Amsterdam, like many European cities, puts real bollards (set deep into cement bases, designed to repel … Continue reading Putting pedestrians first at intersections

Bike Path, Walkway, Bus Stop: all together now

The City of Ottawa claims it cannot possibly design the new section of Booth Street running north from Albert, serving Pimisi Station and the LeBreton Flats area, to include motorists, buses, transit, and bikes. The cyclists just don’t fit. So they are being thrown under the bus. As for their partner in crime, the NCC’s vision for their new urban downtown showpiece doesn’t seem to include complete streets or cyclists. Dusk a few weeks ago, I noticed this lovely bike path – walkway – bus stop combo in Montreal, on the side of Park Lafontaine. Everyone approaching the place gets ample visual … Continue reading Bike Path, Walkway, Bus Stop: all together now

Churchill Cycle Track takes shape

  Churchill Avenue running north from Carling Avenue towards Westboro is being rebuilt today as a complete street. In addition to the regular car / truck traffic lanes on the street, there will be concrete walks and at the same level as the walkway, a cycle track. A cycle track differs from a bike lane, which is a painted zone on the street just off to the side of the car traffic. Road traffic can readily intrude into the bike lane (hello FedEx). The cycle track is separated from other vehicular traffic by a curb and buffer zone. The opening … Continue reading Churchill Cycle Track takes shape

Community Gardeners carry on …

Community Gardeners, sometimes called guerilla gardeners, inspired by a love of plants, work to beautify their neighbourhood through planting things. Sometimes this is into otherwise empty planters the city leaves scattered around. Other times it is in less-expected places, ie real guerilla planting. Here is the community garden planted outside the Plant Rec Centre:   In the Plant case, gardeners worked with the city to install the garden. The city provided a truckload of topsoil as part of the Somerset reconstruction project. Volunteers spread the soil and did the planting with material from other sites and private gardens. A passing … Continue reading Community Gardeners carry on …

Lipstick on Pig improves looks

Last year, we wondered if the proposed artwork on the “reconstructed” part of Bronson Avenue would be enough to make a difference. Andrew O’Malley’s artwork is now installed on the porch roof of the Bronson Centre (there being no public right of way space available at ground level as its all devoted to car worship). The residents of the ‘hood, taking refuge on the Bronson Centre’s roof, were installed this week. And lit up. Here’s some snaps of the action figures: As promised, sometimes the figures are all the same colour, as we come together. I think this is fun … Continue reading Lipstick on Pig improves looks

Return of the Fake Trees

The City of Ottawa proposed a few years back to install metal and plastic trees along Bronson because  “there was no room for real trees”. Strong community opposition lead to a citizen’s initiative to show the planners where they could be installed, given more effort. And whatever beauty Bronson will show this summer is due to that effort. Those thoughts were engendered by the offhand remark of a city employee just before Christmas who commented that Bronson didn’t turn out so bad after all, that all our fuss was for nothing. I beg to differ. The street is less awful … Continue reading Return of the Fake Trees

Innovative sidewalk layout

Urban form is a diagram of the forces acting during planning. Sidewalks are traditionally glued to the edge of the curb. Their routing, and thus that of pedestrians, deemed by engineers to be absolutely perfectly defined by the road geometry designed to move cars. Might there be a more direct way? A different desire line? A more pleasant way? To even consider pedestrian needs and wants is rare (gluing a sidewalk to a curb doesn’t count). All the more delightful to come across this urban scene where landscaping was integrated into the pedestrian realm. A curvy path. Interesting sight lines. … Continue reading Innovative sidewalk layout

City sidewalks, pretty sidewalks …

  So, the picture isn’t of an Ottawa sidewalk. What are the clues? First, there is no snow. But there are people. Happy people. Sitting around with friends, drinking … alcoholic beverages ! The walking pedestrians have to share the space with others using the sidewalk as a living room. There is a [private] overhead roof. With fun lights. That someone could electrocute themselves on if they stuck a wet pole into the light socket. Oops, that last comment was my city bureaucrat bad doppelgänger coming out. Someone with a stroller would have to exercise some caution getting through the … Continue reading City sidewalks, pretty sidewalks …

Different attitude – different tree cover

I was in Montreal a few weeks back and was struck by well treed their residential side streets were. In particular, I was impressed by the neighbourhoods around the old Olympic Stadium/Botanical Gardens, because the neighbourhood also dated from the early 1900’s, like west side Ottawa.   There were many blocks of these treed streets. And they weren’t Glebe-rich either, they were the typical fine mix of rows, triplexes, doubles, apartments, and singles. The wiring is along the street too, not underground or running over the rooftops.   I do believe the Montreal climate is worse than ours for trees … Continue reading Different attitude – different tree cover

Somerset Viaduct hardening

  The local community around Somerset Street had to push very hard to get a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly environment. The results, shown above, are extraordinary (by Ottawa’s low standards): wide walks, bike lanes, ped lighting, trees and shrubs in irrigated-planters where there is no dirt … At the top of the bridge (or viaduct, to be accurate) there is a furnished belvedere. Right now the viewing point is a bit understated, but when the lines of 30-35 storey highrises already in the plans appear, there will be only one sight line to the north and south along the greenway corridor, … Continue reading Somerset Viaduct hardening

Slow progress, but progress nonetheless

The wheels of local government grind slowly. Very slowly. Very very slowly. But they do grind along, and in the spirit of better late than never, both the NCC and City are currently engaged in pedestrian improvement actions that I heartily approve of. First, consider Lincoln Fields transit station. [I note the City wants to drop the word Pasture from the Tunney’s moniker; can Fields be next?].  When the transitway was built thirty-odd years ago, pedestrian access was out to Carling Avenue. Pedestrians, after all, are only accessories to vehicular design. In the City’s and NCC fantasy world, peds were … Continue reading Slow progress, but progress nonetheless

Tree trenches

For decades urban trees have suffered from cheap planting techniques. Cities all too often opted for the meanest, smallest open square around the tree for water and air penetration, and the hole under the sidewalk was usually not much bigger than the root ball itself. Not surprisingly, the trees were unhealthy, seldom grew, often died. Even where there was plenty of room for a larger opening around the tree, the City insisted the minimum size opening was de facto the maximum size opening (see for example, the older sections of Somerset done in the 80’s). Deep down, I think city … Continue reading Tree trenches

Better sidewalk protection still eludes Ottawa

Back in December I railed against the sorry state of sidewalk protection at construction sites: Pedestrian safety sheds: treat people like sh*t and they won’t come!  It is well worth re-reading.https://www.westsideaction.ca/pedestrian-safety-sheds/   On a recent visit to the Centre of the Universe (TM„) I was delighted to come across the NYC-designed scaffolding in use closer to home. There is now officially hope that in Jim Watson’s eighth term of office, we might see something similar, but just on a demonstration basis, of course.   First, notice the solid concrete barrier between the pedestrians and the traffic, the construction vehicles, and … Continue reading Better sidewalk protection still eludes Ottawa

Rescue Bronson (part v): gas station flip flop

Several years ago, Suncor rebuilt the Petro-Can station at the corner of Gladstone and Bronson. It is on a fairly big site for a city. It has the conventional layout: gas pumps under a canopy out front where it can be seen, a convenience store and pay point in the rear. The whole station architecture is part and parcel of a “branding” exercise so we all know whose station it is without any signage actually being required.   Now, let’s look at the Petro-Can at Somerset: When trying to rescue Bronson from the City’s original excessively auto-obsessed design, community members … Continue reading Rescue Bronson (part v): gas station flip flop

Rescue Bronson (part iv): how to plant trees in gravel

It’s somewhat scary to look at the pictures of the Bronson reconstruction zone. One naturally wonders how trees could possibly survive in such little squares of space in a sea of asphalt and concrete. The tree roots are underground, and it’s what’s underground that counts most for their survival (although the concrete curb around the planting hole also helps a lot but preventing the soil from being compacted, and deterring cars and other forms of abuse). Here is one method of planting trees in the hard-compacted gravel road base: Plastic frames, very similar to those ubiquitous plastic milk cartons found on bike … Continue reading Rescue Bronson (part iv): how to plant trees in gravel

Rescue Bronson (part ii): why concrete is good landscaping

    Once the underground utilities are in, visible structures start to appear on the surface. The City necessarily puts a high value on the unseen stuff; as members of the public we relate more to what’s visible. And members of Rescue Bronson wanted a quality surface landscaping. If the City merely restores what used to be there, we end up, after two years of construction mess, with an expensive  landscape that facilitates front yard parking, dinky walkways to what were originally-built as celebrating building doorways, foot traffic that wears out the front foot (or more) or soft landscaping, etc. … Continue reading Rescue Bronson (part ii): why concrete is good landscaping

Rescue Bronson makes lemonade (part i)

Long-time readers will recall the bru-ha-ha about Bronson reconstruction. The City rather high handedly announced it was rebuilding Bronson through the west side of the downtown, was going to widen it by 2′, and do precious damn little for pedestrians, cyclists, and residents. The Rescue Bronson led a valiant two year battle against the current dysfunctional and dangerous road design that blights the community. Efforts to put Bronson on a road diet failed. The City opted for a faithful remake of the 1950’s roads-are-sacred movie (best seen at a drive-in, of course). Within the Rescue Bronson group and community at large, there … Continue reading Rescue Bronson makes lemonade (part i)

Celebration New Town: the residential villages

So, as shown yesterday, they did a good job of  downtown Celebration, building in flexibility, growth, and finely mixed uses. But every city is more than its downtown or mixed use mainstreet. These commercial places are backed up by the primarily residential hinterland. Are these simply more traditional suburbs or can new urbanism successfully mimic the more naturally evolved pre-1940’s neighbourhoods  urbanists love? Over the next few posts, lets look at several  residential neighborhoods in Celebration. The first neighbourhood is Sienna, part of the South [quadrant] Village. Once again, let’s talking about pictures (and video links too !): Above: Sienna neighbourhood is close to … Continue reading Celebration New Town: the residential villages

Building a liveable Ottawa

So, on Tuesday night I trotted off to the City’s launch of its OP (official plan) and TMP (Transportation master plan) tweaks. My, so many fine words. So many nice drawings. Lots of display boards. Mind you, there are some pretty fine words in the last plan too, like the promise that public spaces would be designed for pedestrians first, cyclists, transit, then motorists. To those fine words, every neighbourhood has their own response. Ours is: Bronson Avenue ! Some observations: the traditional traffic analysis uses “level or service”, rated A thru F, for motorists. No measure of pedestrians, cyclists. New measure … Continue reading Building a liveable Ottawa

Smokin’ hot bike racks

A reader kindly supplied this picture of the many innovative ways that bike racks can be used. This one is on West Wellington, just west of Holland. In this case the bike rack is still OK, abeit with a damaged ashtray box. I’ve noticed everywhere I walk in the city that bike posts are falling victim to plow damage. I do wonder how this conflicting use of a post will work out in the spring when more cyclists try to use it. Or maybe the adjacent restaurant wood prefer to cater to smokers rather than cyclists. Continue reading Smokin’ hot bike racks

Burlington Design Smarts

Every place offers new twists and variations on urban design. My fall visit to Burlington revealed some interesting ones that were not on Church Street Marketplace. (see the previous series a week or so ago on Burlington, this completes that series) One of the streets dead-ended at the lake. It terminated in a traffic circle. A mini-traffic circle. Can you imagine Ottawa’s engineers designing something so tight you couldn’t drive a 53′ tractor trailer around it at 50kmh?? At the lakefront park, they had park benches mounted as swings. They looked glorious. They looked fun. But I dunno how well they worked, … Continue reading Burlington Design Smarts

Sparks Street Mall SOUTH (part iii)

The Burlington Church Street Marketplace had mostly older buildings along it, which gave it character and an attractive pedestrian scale. Sparks has lots of older buildings, plus some new office buildings which should generate lots of pedestrians. I did not notice any Burlington buildings with tinted-almost-black windows, like our public broadcaster. Nor was there a block of storefronts facing an indoor mall and turning their backs to the outdoor mall, a la 240 Sparks or D’Arcy McGee. The Burlington indoor mall met Marketplace outdoor mall at right angles, with corner stores facing both, complete with big windows and operable doors … Continue reading Sparks Street Mall SOUTH (part iii)