More thinking, not so sure its better

The application of the complete streets format to the south side of Scott seems worthwhile, as outlined in the previous article. The north side is not so obviously so.

view, carruthers area, new path north


The picture above is pretty much an ideal situation, that is far nicer than could actually appear on the ground. Planners leave out a lot of details, like turn lanes, that wipe out a bunch of those trees in the boulevard, replacing them with asphalt.

Nonetheless, check it out. Scott is on the left, running westward, the new LRT is in the trench. The same general scheme has been applied to the north side of |Scott as had been to the south, ie treed boulevard, westbound bike track, sidewalk, bit more green space up to the edge of the transitway cut.

The fanciful arched overpasses in the previous drawings have been replaced by flat bridges, as are there now, but the planners have created bigger spaces by widening them to create mini plazas. This is both a fairly expensive way to create new public space, but cheap to maintain as there are no plantings. Kids, and many adults, will enjoy looking at passing trains.

But only if they can see them. As we have seen previously on Somerset St overpassing the OTrain, where benches and loitering spot were installed to take advantage of the activity and view planes, the city is there planning to obstruct the view with large steel ‘safety’ fences. These expensive new spaces on Carruthers might be less attractive if the steel bars were shown.

Commendably the planners, George Dark et al, have developed the walking path on the north side of the transitway trench, connecting up the bits of publicly owned land there.

Further west, at Parkdale, they have added pedestrian faciltites on the west side of the street.\new mups


The multi user path (ie, bike and ped asphalt path) along Parkdale is long overdue. The whole parkdale interchange at the Ottawa River Commuter Expressway is designed for motorists and is a ped and cyclist nightmare. It also makes sense to put the path on the west side, since that is the side that connects to the waterfront with the least entanglement in the off ramps. It is also very convenient to put the non–revenue park spaces on federal land, which is somewhat of a Dark leitmotif in all their Ottawa plans (escarpment plan, centretown plan, preston-carling plan).

The missing bit, of course, is that most people are walking on the east side of Parkdale, because that is the sidewalk that fronts onto all those new condo towers the plan calls for. The east side is a bizarre mix of front door drop off zones, garage entrances, and lawns, but the walkways are minimal 5′ wide, cheesy even in today’s environment, and bound to be even more deficient as the condos grow. Where is the plan for wider walks, perhaps set back from the idling commuter cars? How could such a new environment work with all those driveways and garage doors? Will there ever be any more sense of place than just the occasional 700 sq ft ‘convenience store’?

I’d love to see some imaginative things here, that create a sense of place, of a desirable street to live on and walk along, rather than the freeway on-ramp it now resembles. Could some of those buildings be expanded out towards the sidewalk with commercial frontages? Or ground floor condos turned into services, like dentist offices or hair salons or something that attracts some activity?

One building there has a glass garage door, which is way more attractive than the blank doors that other buildings present to the street. Now maybe the change would take a long time, and maybe we need a lot more commercial frontage from the new buildings to make up for the inactive frontages of the older apartments, but we sure need some ideas to repair this damaged streetscape.

Over on Holland, Dark et al propose trees, lots and lots of trees, for the empty grass boulevard the runs down the centre of the street striking into the heart of Tunney’s Pasture.

Except … could anything other than peony bushes be planted here? Recall that this grass median on the north part of Holland (it may have a federal name, but it is easier to consider it part of Holland |ave) forms one of the protected view planes in the city. Recall that the new Tunney’s Pasture LRT station couldn’t have part of the station roof protecting bus transfer users on the overpass because the roof line would intrude into the view plane, that affords Greber’s ruling class motorists with an unobstructed view of the Claxton Building from Scott and even from Carling Avenue miles to the south. If we cannot have so much as a bus shelter roof in that view plane, how will Dark et al get large trees in that park-like median?

(Recall that the recent proposals to redevelop Tunney’s office buildings requires some park funding to the city; rather than pay the funds, the feds offered to give the centre median to the city as parkland, for the city to maintain and get no revenue from — surely a clever bit of downloading by the feds –, but subject to the view planes that prevent it from being anything more than a lawn for gazing in admiration of the glorious cubicle farmers in the Claxton tower).

It has become rather obvious that just like traffic planners since the 70’s had standard models for building and widening streets, and these are still fully in play in the suburbs … within the denser city these have been replaced by similarly formulaic ‘complete streets’ models. Strangely enough, no matter which consulting firm comes up with a new, custom plan for a neighbourhood, they all have the same street cross section. It’s the new normal.

Applying the complete street formula to Scott is definitely a big improvement on what is there. But, and it is a big but, it doesn’t moderate the traffic flow, if anything it increases it, as the rebuilt Scott will have much wider traffic lanes. Wider lanes means faster traffic, regardless of the posted speed limit. Bike tracks and pictures of treed boulevards are great eye candy, but there is no traffic calming in this plan.

And there is something much much worse. It is not obvious because it is what is missing, rather than what is there.

The green corridor on the north side of Scott is not very wide east of Carruthers:

oct 2013 036


Once the curb line on the north side of Scott (shown on the right, above) is move leftwards 12′ to allow for the new boulevard on the south side, and a few feet more to allow for wider traffic lanes, there is just room for a westbound bike track and a sidewalk.

In one simple move, George Dark and the city have managed to kill BikeWest, the concept of a bi-directional off-road path (like the OTrain path) running from downtown to Westboro. We’ve revisit that scheme next.

6 thoughts on “More thinking, not so sure its better

  1. Eric, I know BikeWest is a pet project of yours, but it’s a complete and utter failure as a bike path. I bike along Scott almost every day during the summer and I *never* use it. I could go into the reasons but suffice to say almost every inch of it has something wrong with it that is hostile to cyclists.

    1. Matt – i think you are confusing the current 1970’s pathway with bikewest, which would be built to today’s standards, would have cycling priority raised crossrides (you can see them on carleton u campus today) at the streets into champlain park and other minor streets. Bikewest uses part of the scott pathway right of way, but it is not the current outdated pathway. Bikewest has waaaaay fewer intersections between bronson and churchill than does on-street or beside-the-curb bike tracks, which makes it much safer. I continue to think a separated pathway appeals to more users than does the commuter-centric city version which will not attract as many new users as a separated path. There is a reason the dutch and danish use separated pathways whenever they can, and as a consequence, they have very high cycling satisfaction rates as reflected in their high ridership.

      1. But Eric, the Dutch and Danish cycleways are commuter-centric. Their paths don’t meander about needlessly and, in many cases, offer more direct and less interrupted journeys than going by car.

        In many respects, that’s the problem with all of our paths: they *aren’t* commuter-centric but instead are really recreational. What we really need are off-road pathways designed to convey cyclists fairly directly between destinations.

  2. According to the draft map / plan there is going to be a new connection to the Ottawa Commuter Parkway (so glad you have returned to the prior name). On the western edge of Tunney’s is Sir Fredrick Banting Driveway which now dead ends. According to the draft map / plan this street will punch through and create a new connection to the OCP. This is partially disguised by the text label referencing the proposed bike way.

    If this goes ahead this will become a major arterial as Island Park is a semi-mobile parking lot during rush hours.

  3. Eric, am I reading this right that there are protected views of Brooke Claxton? That seems … odd. I knew about the parliament buildings, but what else do we get guaranteed views of?

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