The folks running the Downtown Moves study had an open house last evening. I was very pleased and surprised at the large turnout around 6pm. Some attendees were the usual suspects we find at these events, ie the city builder activists and those promoting their favourite causes. There were a l0t of “new” faces as well. All good.
One of the display boards offered attendees the opportunity to put a dot on the main cycling and pedestrian problems in the core. Jumping right out at any viewer was the cluster of both ped and cyclist dots at the Albert-Bronson intersection, especially on the NW corner running to Commissioner Street.
In many respects the meeting was like a cocktail party (with the wine and snackies missing). Little clusters of conversation appeared and reappeared as people mingled. So many people were talking about “solutions” they saw elsewhere on their travels. When talking to HM, he described a truly transit-oriented development (TOD) he recently saw in Sweden. A ring road circles the residential area, and has access fingers penetrating — but not crossing — the central area. From anywhere in the residential area within the ring, residents can access schools, stores, and the transit station directly, without crossing a road. To use the car requires a trip out to the perimeter ring road, a longish drive around, and then finding fresh parking. It was simply easier to walk or cycle.
I compared this to the City’s concept sketch of a TOD immediately north of the Hurdman Station. The motorist road came into the neighborhood right by the transit station, and circled the site, but with buildings on both sides of the road. Residents coming or going to the transit station had to cross a road, sometimes twice or three times. Their walks home were glued to the curb. In short, it wasn’t transit-oriented at all, it was car-oriented but just located close by a transit station.
I find the approved Bayview Yards redevelopment site similarly too auto-focussed despite the proximity for transit. Now maybe, as plans evolve, these layouts will become more TOD and might actually make the car the less-convenient choice. But Ottawa is still far short of being comfortable with or even conceiving of auto-free developments let alone transit-priority development patterns. We talk well, but don’t yet walk the talk.
Here are two pic from Vancouver, taken last week, showing the easy proximity of cycling and pedestrian facilities. Note, no curb separates the two surfaces, they are at the same level. Ottawan’s are still married to the bureaucratic view that there must be physical bounds between peds and cyclists, they cannot be trusted to get along together. Gotta have rules! Fences! Curbs! Signs! Policing!
Thanks to Michelle for both photos.