City sidewalks, pretty sidewalks …

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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 crowd of happy people. But, on the other hand (or wheel) the baby might be entertained by the coloured lights.

Even the friggin’ utility pole has an interesting shape.

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The crosswalks were wide. Super wide. Nicely paved in bricks. The bollards help keep cars off people’s toes, and remind people they are approaching a car crossing.

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At the end of the downtown street, a public square, with fountains, and icicle lights, and a band playing (presumably a new group getting exposure…it sounded pretty bad, but maybe it was me), on a mid-week night.

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This isn’t Ottawa, of course. Too much fun. Too relaxed. I was recently reviewing the Queen Street rebuild project plans. Wider sidewalks. Decorative paving. Still a lot of car-first focus. Certainly an improvement over Queen Street today.

The drawings looked nice, but I wondered where the WOW factor was. There is no program to encourage actual sidewalk life, and much to discourage it. We have a short summer; we don’t make the best of it. We have a lot of public realm, but have ceded almost all of it to motorists.

The lively sidewalks above are from Palm Beach, Fl. 

One thought on “City sidewalks, pretty sidewalks …

  1. I agree completely. When one looks at the plans for Queen, you can tell their heart is the right place…but I ask myself, even with these improvements, would I then walk down Queen when traversing the length of downtown (as I do often)? The answer is no — because there’s nothing to look at, nothing to catch my attention as I stroll, just blank walls and the odd office building entrance.

    So, what is one to say? Perhaps they can do more to encourage street life, but I think it would be mostly half measures because what is needed is outside their mandate (as I imagine them saying). One needs to just totally remake/demolish the first floor of almost every structure along that strip. But, at least each building on Queen preserves a view plane to the Peace Tower. So there’s that.

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