Desire lines in the snow

Pathways through fields tell us a lot about where people want to go.

Frequently it is not where the planners or architects’ walkways want to take us. That’s because they usually make walkways accessories to buildings, following the same square lines.

In the summer, paved walkways and roads hide the pedestrian record.

But in winter, the size of the beaten path tells us how many people want to go somewhere. And if they want to go badly enough they will boldly go where no snow plow has gone before. [cut the Capt’n Kirk stuff –ed].

Let’s start off with the (in)famous gateway that the NCC has tried several times to close. Note, by the way, that the City is planning to permanently close this path by closing the transitway crossing in 2013 (unless we can convince them otherwise):

And a bit further on, along the ill-maintained old bike path along the aqueduct, you’ll notice something curious but all-too-common. The unplowed ped path parallels [try saying that fast!] a service lane used occasionally by a single vehicle to check on the aqueduct gates, but notice how well it is plowed. Why not make the lane and the pathway the same thing? Free winter plowing!

unplowed ped path to the left of the fence; plowed one-vehicle-a-day service road on the right.

The photo above doesn’t quite show the full extent of the plowing … so try this one:

Naturally, pedestrians like the idea of a plowed path, so to get onto it, here is the Not-Eric-Darwin-Commemorative-Gate cut through the chainlink:

Honest, a retiree like me strong enough to cut a chain link fence?? Nahh.

3 thoughts on “Desire lines in the snow

  1. Good post.
    Sometimes the desire lines are visible in the summer. Enough people cut the corner to get into Plant that the grass died, and in the recent round of construction an actual brick pathway was put in.
    It would be great if the city listened about combining the walk way and the plowed path.

  2. Those are well worn paths. People find their ways…the city should just watch and learn where to put in their walkways. By the way, a good lock cutter would make short work of that fence even if wielded by an honest retiree!

  3. I remember teaching this obvious bit of user influence to architectural students over 40 years ago. It took a certain Ottawa educational institution a couple of decades before they stopped re-seeding such ‘goat tracks’ each fall! It takes a long time for the penny to finally drop, it would seem. Thanks for bringing this piece of common-sense wisdom to the fore again.

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