Harbinger of New Walkway Design

Like in any entrenched religion or philosophy, internal contradictions eventually create cogitative dissonance in civil engineering standards. That people who walk must always defer to people who drive is one such encrusted rule slowly crumbling in the face of pedestrian revolt.

Occasionally we see examples of people who walk getting the right of way over people who drive, but there very scarcity makes them noticeable. At selected road crossings, after much lobbying and pressure, the engineering staff may, with many caveats, permit a walkway to cross a minor road with priority going to the people who walk. Scarcely common.

Cambridge, MA (one of the component cities of the Boston metropolis) is willing to try new urban infrastructure years or decades before the concepts can gain traction in sleepy Ottawa. Over the years, readers have seen numerous examples on this site of their separated cycling tracks, bioswales, civic engagement, etc as the Republic of Cambridge is a recurring stop on my travelling circuit.

I was really pleased a few weeks ago to amble across another innovation. For a significant number of blocks, along a busy urban street in a mixed use neighbourhood, the walkways for people had priority over crossing traffic of people who drive cars.


Not just one intersection, but block after block people who walk did not descend ramps to cross streets, did not face puddles at every sidewalk dip, did not have roller coaster surfaces to contend with  …   It felt like a time machine, with Marty McWalker going back to the future (note too, that the future date in that movie is … this year !)

Note that the priority for people who walk was only in one direction of travel, on both sides of the street, and that the priority was not maintained at select busier crossing streets. But progress begins with one step at a time. Any chance we could send our transportation committee chair to walk this street?



In the above pic, compare the level crossing for people who walk along the street vs those who cross to the right, where there is the expensive traditional rigmarole of stuff “for pedestrian safety” … you know, the dip, the curb, the puddle, the hump in the centre of the road, repeat …



Could we sell this crossing scheme to our frugalister mayor as a way to save money?

3 thoughts on “Harbinger of New Walkway Design

  1. As I understand it, there will be a level crossing on the Trillium pathway at Beech St. Only one intersection I guess, but I sure look forward to it every time I haul my daughter(s) in the chariot behind my bike up that curb.

  2. Could be an issue of road drainage – note the depression next to the curb extends across the pedestrian crossing, hence the dip before the raised crossing. This could be solved by placing a catch basin hole in the sidewalk curb just before the crosswalk when the street is redone.

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