Rescue Bronson (part iii) : roller coaster sidewalks

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The section of Bronson that had pedestrian walks completed last fall used the City’s traditional “roller coaster” sidewalk design, as shown above. The whole width of walk “dips” for every car crossing. Motorists gets a smooth entry to their driveway; pedestrians get a thrill ride on undulating concrete. And in winter, walk plowing is hampered by the grade changes; the surface becomes only intermittently cleared bare.

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Above: The City discourages businesses along Bronson because it so hazardous for motorists to stop. In front of this business, the whole front yard is paved so motorists can cut across the walk, stop, pop into the store, and drive out again. Note the curbed planter zones before and beyond this particular location.

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Above: the pull-in zone in front of this CCOC apartment building works much better. There is room for a planter, trees, and separation of the pedestrian from the stopping motorist. Rescue Bronson wanted a similar treatment for the front of the Bronson Centre, which has over the years been steadily expanding their front yard parking by chopping down a tree a year and paving over the lawn. At my last involvement, the Bronson Centre was winning the struggle to keep all its front yard parking even though the exit and entrances were awful for pedestrians. It’s all a matter of priorities and values.

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Above: in the section of Bronson running north from Gladstone, under construction this spring, the City has shifted sidewalk styles. This is sometimes called the “Toronto style”. The main part of the sidewalk remains straight, level, and convenient for pedestrians. Much of the “dipping” occurs for motorists in the first 18″ or so back from the curb, in the less-walked-on utility post zone. Squint at the above walk carefully, and you can see the dip does intrude about a third of the way into the walkway. This still allows pedestrians, especially those pushing strollers, dragging carts, or in wheelchairs, to continue “on the level”. Otherwise the slope drags the wheeled object into the busy road. The City’s first experiments with the Toronto style on Hopewell and Gladstone (near Bayswater) have the dip extending over most of the sidewalk, and are terrible for pedestrians, threatening an ankle-break to all walkers and a constant, exhausting struggle to keep wheelchairs or strollers going straight.

I talked to the project / concrete foreman on the site shown above. I complimented him on keeping so much of the walkway level. He, however, was much more interested in pointing out how gentle the motorists’ slopes were, so there wouldn’t be much of  bump for them. I suspect he must work on other “pedestrian first” walks like on West Wellington, or Somerset, or parts of Preston, where the “dip” for motorists extravagantly extends 16′ or more back from the curb, while pedestrians lurch down some fairly steep street slopes made worse by paying acquiescence to the all-sacred  automobile.

There are a number of “bulb-outs” on the side streets. These serve to slow traffic leaving the faster jack-rabbit Bronson environment and entering what should be quiet residential streets. They also provide additional landscaping zones to buffer side streets from the busy Bronson, and patio space for businesses.

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The space above is a generous walkway space, and allows room for some patio seating. The picture below of the same space shows how generous the protected planter zone is, buffering the walk and patio from traffic, adding green space, trees, birds chirping, and all that.

may 3, 2013 048Once plants are in the planter it will be more obvious to snow plows and the back curbs  may last more than one winter.

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The Bronson public right of way is so monopolized for through traffic, that in many places there was no room for trees. The planners were keen to try out these thin shelters, designed to provide shade for the benches to be plunked down thereunder. Several more of these shelters are planned for Bronson itself, where the lack of space is more apparent. Rescue Bronson wanted some of these at bus stops, since there are no bus shelters between Gladstone and Queen. Last I heard there were to be no shelters at any of the bus stops in that zone, but there would be some roofs over benches.

These roofs, for those with long memories, derived from the earlier attempt by the City to install fake metal trees on Bronson since there was no room for real ones. In addition to these roofs, several giant metal trees will be installed at the corner of Gladstone as part of the public artwork.

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