Sidewalk reflections

Any pedestrian in Ottawa recognizes the scene: melting snow puddles on the sidewalks, roads, and crosswalks. Such puddles are to be expected when the roads are old, breaking up, sagging, worn out.But the pic above is of a main street rebuilt … last year!

Why can’t our engineers get it right? Surely it isn’t rocket science to build crosswalks that drain to catch basins?

The answer lies in an equally predictable realm. The intersections are not designed for pedestrians, but for motorists. To build that concrete crosswalk one or two inches higher would ensure drainage, but then motorists would feel a slight bump as they go over it. What a disaster and inconvenience!

Traffic goes faster than we desire on our streets because we build them flatter, straighter, with wider sight lines that encourage speed. Then we complain about too much traffic going too fast. We cater to car traffic while simultaneously making pedestrian movements decidedly second class, even while claiming to pedestrianize a space.

The situation won’t change until people express a stronger demand for usable sidewalks and crosswalks. As a side benefit, they will be traffic calming too. It’s up to us to speak up.

13 thoughts on “Sidewalk reflections

  1. Is this only due to snow and ice blocking proper drainage? Is there a puddle like that after a summer time rain event as well?

  2. I have taken numerous pic of Preston intersections with puddles, and West Wellie with puddles. Most are at corners. Some are winter, some are summer. But there are puddles to be found on crosswalks along both streets summer and winter.

    For example, right in front of the Prescott Hotel – puddle. At the corner opposite 301 Preston, always a puddle, winter or summer. The catch basins are too far off, slightly uphill, without a intake slope … the reasons vary. The corner of Preston at Somerset, two catch basins on the NE corner on Somerset fail to catch the water, it runs out into the centre of Preston where the slope dies and the water slows, leaving a 30′ puddle that every vehicle goes through creating a mist of water spray and a great big whoosh sound. Uck.

    1. When redoing Preston and Somerset I talked to both engineering teams about the importance of putting catch basins upslope of every crosswalk. they usually did this, but alas, the problem continues. I think it is because they are too scared of slopes, they want the street to be incredibly smooth and unbumpy for cars. The obvious solution is to make the crosswalks NOT dip for minor sidestreets; and on the mainstreets to make the crosswalks an inch or two higher than the asphalt so that water doesn’t puddle on them but drains to the catch basins.

      An even better solution is to stop draining water to the curb line. Drain it to the centre line. Put catch basins there. No splashing peds. No puddles at corners or at driveways. No icy slopes. Moving cars keep centre line clear.

  3. If you raise the crosswalks, then the snow, ice, and water will pool up even worse. Just look at speed humps–even though they don’t extend all the way to the curb line, they still manage to back up the water. (It doesn’t help they’re often installed after drain location has been decided)

  4. This seems to be a problem that our city road engineers can’t deal with. I live on a dead end that was redone a few years ago. I talked extensively with the city and the project foreman about my knowledge (gained through bitter experience) of the water flows on the street and in the neighbourhood. They basically made the worst choices that they could have and we fight all winter with the ice and snow to keep canals open to the drains that are on the high points of the road. On top of that the sidewalk plows keep coming by and filling these in and covering the drains. As one of the lowest points in the Civic neighbourhood, our basements become the water storage place if the drains are not working.
    I wonder what will change things.

  5. Proper placement of the drains seems to me to be the way to go. I don’t understand how they can be so far off so often. I live near Queen Elizabeth Driveway and the water runs down our street on a slight decline to the driveway. The catch basin never catches the run-off because it is always blocked with snow so the water runs out onto the driveway and forms a huge puddle. Inconveniently, this puddle is where most pedestrians cross the QED! A drain in the middle of the road would work so much better. But that would make sense.

  6. This is the city that is ripping out traffic signals where pedestrians get a walk as of right, and replacing them with walk-on-demand buttons. Which don’t work.

    So don’t hold your breath for drainage that actually drains.

    The official plan, when it comes to pedestrians, is total lip service. Councillors and staff come and go. None of them care. None of them ever do. None of them ever will. With only one exception that I know of, they all drive everywhere.

    Let’s just give up. It’s not worth it anymore.

    1. “The official plan, when it comes to pedestrians, is total lip service. Councillors and staff come and go. None of them care. None of them ever do. None of them ever will. With only one exception that I know of, they all drive everywhere.”

      And I’m sure if your only Irish friend were a drunk you’d think they all were too. I know of many ‘exceptions’ to the extent that in my mind, it’s the rule.

      One councillor wisely counseled me that insulting them (especially in such an ignorant fashion) won’t make them want to help you.

      1. Well, since they aren’t willing or able to “help” anyway, that’s no big loss, now, is it? The insult doesn’t change the status quo in any way, but at least I get to vent.

  7. Have you been by the Baseline transit station lately? There is a lake at the south west corner by the skateboard park, which only involves a MUPath, so we can’t even blame that one on cars. Every year, there is a lake there but this year it was really bad. Then they made it worse by dredging the field and all they did was make the lake bigger. You have to walk through the city hall parking lot to get around it.

    I believe there is some truth to the above musing that if councillors or city staff don’t use the affected area (sidewalk, MUP, etc.) then it tends to not get fixed as quickly. Certainly, the reverse is true – if a councillor is inconvenienced by something, that thing gets faster attention.

  8. Julia: the baseline station farce is marvellous. It floods there every year. All the adjacent lands are city controlled so they cannot blame the problem on adjacent land owners. They have two major construction projects adjacent and neither one manages to fix the flooding. The building adjacent houses the … sewer, engineering, and drainage depts. Notice that their parking lots don’t flood. I’d love to drag out the whole sewer and engineering depts mid-day and force them to walk through the puddle and then sit all day in the office with wet and muddy feet.

    1. FYI it is totally drained now. My husband walked by it on Sunday and said it was dry. I walked there this morning and it was dry. On the walk home, I chanced to be at the corner at the same time as a city worker and we had a nice chat about it. He blamed engineers (“5 years of study and what do they know?”). He said they had pumps operating on the weekend so it could drain into the storm sewers. He also said they will have to install some catch basins when they re-do the lawn by the skateboard park. Its a good thing they dug up that lawn with the backhoe to try to drain it!

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