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 concrete sidewalk squares on the backside of the curb. The curb itself is marked tactilely for the pedestrian with a plate of raised dots, instead of the sidewalk groves used elsewhere in the city. Beside it is the new bike crossride, marked with bike symbols and a long dashed line. It’s launching pad is asphalt with a road-type stop line painted on the surface.
On the far south side of the intersection, there is another pedestrian crosswalk and a bike crossride, but the crossride this time is marked with two sets of long dashed lines, because the bike lane is set out from the Fifth Avenue curb, as is clear from this photo:
Upon reflection, the rationale for the two crosswalk markings is apparent, but on site it struck me as confusing.
But what is that off to the left? It’s yet another crossride, this time bi-directional, connecting the path on the west side of The Driveway with the path on the east side (where this photo was taken). This crossride is marked out not with dashed lines, but large square blocks. Is it a crossride only, or are pedestrians welcome?
The overall impression of the intersection when you arrive at it is complexity and confusion. This isn’t helped by the suddenness of the approaches, particularly from the northwest, where the intersection appears quickly. And there will be many more first timers arriving at this intersection, more possibility for confusion, and from confusion comes danger.
There isn’t an easy, obvious solution to the confusion, as each item in the composition makes sense by itself, addressing its own need (sidewalk+crossride; sidewalk set off from crossride; bidirectional crossride with no pedestrian crosswalk). Technically correct but in sum, not user friendly.
I did wonder if green asphalt marking out cycling routes would make it clearer or easier to recognize. Or maybe I just have to grow some new brain cells and figure all this out and learn to recognize long dashes and square blocks as the new reality.
The signage is also curious:
Surely all that text — in two official languages — could have been abbreviated by the simpler bike symbol with an arrow downwards to the left, and the pedestrian symbol with an arrow downward to the right.
Elsewhere, I have noticed some noticeably politer language on cycling signs. The Sparks Street Mall has replaced its large cyclist-with-a-red-stroke sign with a politer version asking cyclists to walk their bikes (i’m sure I took a snap of it, but my camera seems to have lost it…).
And at Carleton U, this polite sign that both gives direction to the cyclist while providing a rationale for the sign, and a learning experience for the users.
Tomorrow: a simpler crossride / crosswalk intersection example.