City Hall employees should not read this

This blog has a number of readers in the municipal bureaucracy.

So I have to be careful with this story, because I don’t want someone rushing out to “undo” what some citizen has done. So, a Holiday Monday posting might help it slip through. And the exact location must remain a secret.

We know that the bureaucrats want cycling and walking paths to “end” at a controlled intersection. Same thing when these paths are crossed by a street.

So users of certain popular facilities get frustrated when a path ends at a curb that hasn’t had a curb cut, or depression, to help one cross the street or join the street. A curb cut won’t be installed because there isn’t the budget for a signal (apparently stop signs aren’t good enough…).

In my view this promotes a worse situation, where cyclists and wheelchair users ride down the street sidewalk looking for a curb cut, and then cross the street at a bad angle, with bad sight lines, and maybe only after leaving one walkway discovering there is no corresponding curb cut on the opposite side. Beech Street is one such location that comes to mind.

Evidently frustrated by the lack of a curb cut, some enterprising citizen built his own curb crossings. Out of concrete no less. Now they may not survive winter snowplowing, but until then they will provide considerable convenience to cyclists. Note also that there is even a blue painted cycle symbol on the walkway so that the approaching cyclist knows where the ramp is before s/he can see over the lip of the curb. How complete.

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I used these ramps today.Saturday.  I must admit I would prefer a broader curb cut, but these ramp-ettes allowed me to cross a deserted street without dismounting. The wife cyclist made it down the ramp on her bike, but rolled her bike up the opposite one.


more on this story:  The comments received are interesting, as always, readers are so insightful. To repeat here: there is a curb cut at Gladstone, but as far as I know a traffic signal is planned for that crossing, just not yet installed.

As for the concrete rampettes, several people emailed me to say the ramps were widened since I took the picture. Here is that story, as contributed by a reader:

Hey Eric, I noticed your review of the ramps on Beech.
I talked with a few people at City Hall  about the curb cuts there. They said they would fix Beech! In 2014. This temporary fix should give users access to the path across Beech for 2013 (provided they last).
Apparently a group of three cyclists went out at 1am on Thursday and invested some spraypaint, a $9.83, 30kg bag of fast-set cement and an hour or so of their time. I understand they mixed the cement on site and weren’t noticed by any of the local dogwalkers or taxi drivers. Then on Friday they realized that the ramps were a little small for 6.5″ and 6.0″ curbs.
You might want to check out the ramps as of 1:45am early this morning. It looks like they went back and put down another two bags to widen them.

Ahh, my new superheros !

And here are some pictures showing what a lovely cement patti-cake Queen Victoria can make when so inclined:

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10 thoughts on “City Hall employees should not read this

  1. You keep mentioning that Curb Depressions and Stop Signs are not good enough for the City at road/MUP intersections and that they require signalized crossings, but at the new Gladstone crossing, that’s all they’ve provided.

    In fact, as a cyclist in the southbound approach at this location it’s hard to tell that a street crossing is ahead.

    So, since they’ve just done a curb depression and stop signs at Gladstone (and many others I can think of), why do you think that they won’t do this at Beech eventually?

    It’s good that some renegades installed that ramp-ette, but they should have slipped in a bit of PVC pipe, because this chunk of concrete is going to mess up the road drainage and make it a sure thing that Surface Ops will tear it out ASAP. Thoughtful to add the blue paint, but the pipe maybe could have allowed it to sneak by without being torn out, since it would be harmless.

    1. DHH: “at the new Gladstone crossing, that’s all they’ve provided” well, not quite. They have installed the bases and wiring for a traffic signal at Gladstone. It’s just not there yet. Look under the pylon. As far as I know, its still planned for there. And they cannot paint a crosswalk, because crosswalks are for pedestrians, not cyclists, and they get their knickers in a knot worried about cyclists having an unrealistic sense of safety riding (“illegally”) on a crosswalk.

      My point at Beech is that the refusal to provide an “unsafe” (in their view) xwalk or curb cut results in a much more dangerous situation than the “faulty” remedy.

  2. Can I add “strollers” to the list of ambulatory devices that have trouble? I was showing my (visiting from out of town) father the new path, and when we came to the madness described above, I explained, while we lifted the stroller onto the street, why there were no curb cuts. Being a devoted reader of this blog has its privileges. Frankly, the existence of a reason for not putting in the curb cuts is MORE disturbing than if it was an oversight. What kind of city purposefully creates unsafe pedestrian situations? Paint some white lines on the street and put up a pedestrian crossing/stop sign…

    1. Some of the ex-City engineers and retired road builders should get together, come up with a neat name/logo, get some masks and capes and form an ‘Avengers’-type philanthropist superhero group that fixes these things (properly) by night.

      1. Actually, such a group did exist (not made up of ex-City engineers), who did things like that: “Ottawa City Repair”. If you’ve ever seen the tent-like canopy made of old umbrellas, that was one of theirs. They did things like guerrilla gardening and street painting. I think they’ve been superseded by Ecology Ottawa and Jane’s Walks.

  3. I have since amended the original story to include some previously secret details of the original concrete rampettes,and how they magically grew larger last night. Pic coming soon.

  4. Ha! This is neat, and useful for anyone who doesn’t want to go the couple dozen metres east to use the curb depressions at the adjacent driveways.

    There are a lot of people complaining about Beech Street, but there are a few things that people either forget or don’t know:
    – Just like with the Laurier bike lane, yes, the connections are sub-optimal at either end, but you have to start somewhere. The amount of people using this stretch helps to justify the funding to continue it for the next section.
    – It wasn’t long ago (up to 2009, excluding the Corktown Footbridge) that the City’s annual budget for cycling infrastructure was measured in tens of thousands of dollars, and our ‘cycling department’ was just one guy. Since the end of those dark ages, this path was one of a number of large-scale cycling projects done in each of the last few years, and we’ve got a whole team of cycling/ped/TDM people working in the transportation planning department. This pathway alone took a few million dollars.
    – Tied to the last point, the next stretch of pathway, continuing from Young to Carling and perhaps even Prince of Wales, is scheduled for next year. Not only that, but they’re also preparing to put in another ped/bike bridge at Hickory/Adeline! This is a HUGE contrast to ‘the old days’, we don’t have to wonder whether the missing link will be done this decade.
    – People asking “why didn’t they continue all the way to Carling?” may not realize that this pathway project was originally to end at Gladstone, until people (Eric, most vocally) asked “why can’t we extend it further south, at least to Young street?” There’s only so far you can stretch a project (and its budget) beyond its original limits, and the improvements they made in this extra stretch were significant (twice breaking Alex’s golden rule of road planning: ‘the car never loses’).
    – If they had put in the curb depression at Beech, then people would complain that there aren’t lights, or that they didn’t pave it, or that there isn’t a safe crossing at Carling, etc. All that and more be dealt with in the next segment, which as I said is supposed to come next year. Some people say they cross over the O-Train tracks at Young to continue south on the quiet roads on that side.
    – I think the most important point is at least there IS a path here, even if it is a dirt/stonedust path dating from the ’60s. Let’s not forget that they just installed a whole new, first-class pathway all the way from Gladstone to the river where before there was nothing but scrub and overgrowth!

    I’m not saying people shouldn’t be pushing for better cycling infrastructure and to fix problems, just that this one’s already on the list to be fixed, so let’s look for other fights yet to be won! Also, woo hoo new pathway!

    1. I don’t feel that fixing the curbs at Beech need to be part of a major project to have the city fix them. After all, the city did build a ramp for ducklings in the Glebe not long ago.

  5. I use this path on my commute. It is very nice!

    I understand that the project couldn’t extend all the way to Carling, and I see reasons beyond just the budget for only doing part of it in 2013.

    But I don’t agree that absolutely no consideration can be given to the needs of cyclists who do choose to use the dirt path this year. The cost to do a proper curb cut is so low ($2k?) for such high benefit to users.

    Adding a curb cut isn’t some slippery slope to expecting new signals, etc. in 2013. It’s a cheap way to make the built path *EVEN BETTER*.

    I don’t know enough details of the project to know if the Golden Rule was broken.

  6. I think that Beech is a perfect opportunity to get a little creative with road design. Instead on just a curb cut, why not put in a raised crossing, with a paver, to visually demarcate the crossing? Maybe a yield sign, indicating that MUP users have the right-of-way, aand that’s that. Signallying seems like overkill, and a curb cut alone, inadequate.

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