Road diet, complete street options for Merivale

Having yesterday dispatched the “transit priority” concept for Merivale, as being just a tarted up “do nothing” same old – same old option, lipstick on the proverbial pig, what about the other options?

They definitely offer something to the adjacent community.

The right of way along Merivale varies greatly from block to block. So the sketch above is a “typical” block. But sometimes the features shown won’t fit into the allowed right of way, so “compromises” will be required. Rest assured that compromises doesn’t mean narrower car lanes (which are proven in the engineering literature to be safer) or slower traffic (also safer), but will mean the cycle track becomes  as less-safe and less-attractive cycle lane which protects the cyclist with a generous dash of instant-wash-off white paint. And that cycling infrastructure will vary from block to block, sometimes a track above the curb, sometimes a lane, sometimes… ??

That new inviting sidewalk might shrink back down to the plain ole narrow ones pedestrians suffer with today. And those trees? Well, they go in only if there room, after the driveways, parking lots, view lines to store signs, sight triangles at intersections so cars can turn faster, etc. etc. And even then, only if the space under the asphalt hasn’t been taken up by gas lines, wiring, pipes, or other utilities which all get first dibs on the space.

The sketch above shows protected parking bays on both sides of the street. They are protected in that they are available for parking 24/7, and cannot be pressed into service as “rush hour” lanes due to the bulb outs at intersections and some bus stops (every third bus stop will likely be a “pull in” bay to allow cars to pass by, which reduces the traffic calming road diet).

The sketch shows some driveways and commercial lot entrances on the protected bay (ie no parking zone) and some on the bulb outs. The only reason for leaving a driveway on the end of a bay is if it is conceivable that redevelopment might someday remove that driveway.

The above design does give a nice straight cycle track above the curb, beside the sidewalk, both being buffered from the road by brick strips or parked cars. Shown with lots o’trees … but it is easier to draw trees than to actually plant them.

Crosswalks at intersections are much shorter now, a huge improvement in pedestrian safety. Pedestrian risk is minimized at the expense of longer travel times for motorists.

The option below has a single parking lane, instead of two. While in theory this makes room for better (or some!) humanizing landscaping, the temptation will be to use up space for turn lanes.


And the third option does just that, it shows a left turn lane at major intersections that carries on as a two-way left turn lane down the centre of the road. While sometimes sarcastically called suicide lanes, they actually have a good vehicular safety record. They may get their bad reputation when employed on roads like Bank Street in Alta Vista, but there the roads are at least four traffic lanes. Here there is only one lane in each direction, so the centre lane should facilitate access and egress from the commercial properties and turns at intersections.

But note there is also a parking lane sometimes on one side of the street. To mortals, that looks like four lanes again.


Of course, that extra lane makes crossing at intersections longer and more dangerous. So motorists win time convenience at the cost of increased risk of injury and death to pedestrians. And mid-block crossings, which are very tempting given the irregular number of approaching side streets and pathways that are not at signalized intersections, will be even riskier. Perhaps the suicide moniker doesn’t refer to motorists, but to pedestrians stranded in the middle not knowing which way to jump. Merchants, BTW, will continue to be mostly limited to clientele that can walk in from their side of the street since few parents will send a kid to the store or pizza joint with these designs. Invincible immortal teens will cross anywhere anytime of course.

And I don’t believe for a minute the sketcher’s notion that one can get as much landscaping and as many trees with a three/four lane option as a two lane.

Of the drawings, I think the middle one (called option 3) is my choice.

When viewing the drawings, it is almost all road, and there is a tendency to want to design it from a road perspective. The drawing reinforces that by focusing on the road and minimizing the adjacent land uses that the street serves. It is a residential and commercial main street, and one goal is to make redevelopment more attractive. And it would be nice if the final design made crossing the street safe enough that parents could let their little obeasties walk to school, reducing school busing and putting people visible in the city. And should there eventually be redevelopment along the strip, maybe the  elderly in the apartments above the stores might want to walk to church or Shoppers Drug Mart at the new multi-towered Westgate. For that to happen, a complete street has to be truly complete.