Some real ped improvements, and some not

It is good to be (still) living, in a time when transportation is finally focusing on people who walk, people who cycle, and not just people who drive.

Yet to come, of course, is any concern for the people living and working adjacent to roads, but that too will come. Someday soon, I hope.

The NCC is the latest convert to increased awareness of road-environs safety. But as we will see, its conversion on the road to paradise is only partial. It remains a sinner.

First, the good news. 

The NCC is revising the intersection on Queen Elizabeth Driveway near Bank Street. I suspect its interest here has more to do with improved access to Lansdowne Park than the long-standing dangerous intersections created by the NCC and the City in this area.

Here is the proposed setup:

qe ped crossing

Notice the significant improvements. The island in QED has been made much wider. The westbound lane approaching from under the bridge has been realigned so one can actually see the cars coming (right now, they are hidden behind the pillar because, you know, seeing oncoming cars isn’t important for ped safety).

Due to construction along the canal pathway, I crossed at this intersection just yesterday, and attest it is definitely still stressful.

The crossing has those new PedX signals, with flashing strobe lights on top of the ped crosswalk signs. Because of the wide island, it is only necessary to cross one direction of traffic at a time, and only guess at oncoming vehicle speed and moment of arrival one at a time.

Whether or not this is an official cross-ride crossing, it is suitably wide enough to ride across, and that is just what everyone will do. No doubt, some dundridge will send out some cop as punishment duty to issue tickets once in a while.

Notice too that the traffic lanes have been narrowed a bit (or maybe the road was widened first) with painted lines and bike lane added to the road.

Here’s a drawing:

qe ped crossing drawing

I am tad less pleased with the sea of asphalt on the right, cross hatched with painted lines. While the westbound traffic lane deviation is good as it will “naturally” encourage slightly slower speeds, why so much pavement? Why the unsightly paint that is an ongoing maintenance hazard?

While there might be some additional cost, just run those curbs all the way out on that island space, green it up, and plant a tree that will grow substantially large.

Motorists will slow because of the curve, because of narrower lanes, and because of greenery, not because of wider roads and a traffic sign. By splitting the road, a ped activating the cross walk flashing lights will only slow one lane of traffic in one direction, and traffic on the other legs of the intersection will continue to move.

I railed here a few days ago about “fat roads” that get larded with something for everyone. And those painted cycling lanes … on a road paralleled on both sides with prime cycling MUPs … are they necessary or even desirable?

The painted lane makes the road appear wider which induces faster traffic. It would be interesting to know if there is data as to how many cyclists use the road, how many use the paths, and if there is any time saving to using the road and not the shared path.

And that was the good news.

Now, the bad news. 

The NCC is proposing a ped crossing at Commissioners’ Park.

ped xing comm park

This crossing is OK,  and useful. It is raised, and provided the slope is steep enough motorists notice it, it will have a speed calming effect.

I have no doubt cyclists will use it too. Although the activation mechanism (aka beg button) is on the left side of the crossing approach in each case.

I suggest that this crossing would be even better if there was a 10′ wide island in the centre, and the westbound lane was forced to deviate around it (deviate a bit to the right, in the picture above).

Each ped crossing would then be shorter, and users vulnerable to only one direction of traffic at a time, and motorists would be stopped slightly less than if both directions have to stop at the same time for the duration of the entire crossing.

The deviation would also provide a “natural” inducement to slow down. I see these in use in Germany and Austria and occasionally in Florida and think they make lots of sense. The deviation doesn’t appear to be just another stupid sign to motorists … it is natural to slow when the road gets narrower, especially if the lane itself also gets narrower.

But then the NCC goes out and blows it.

The claim “improvements” elsewhere, near the Two Hat sculpture.

non improvement a two hats

The improvement is the little planting zone by the piazza. But the road crossing is now gone. I suspect because keeping or improving it would be deemed “too close” to the QED/Preston intersection. Too close for motorists. Too disruptive of motor traffic.

Ped improvements are allowed only if not noticeable by motorists.

No pedestrian I know that is wanting to get closer to the Lake will walk from Two Hats to the intersection of Preston/QED just to cross the street at the official signalized intersection. (At Bluesfest they require THREE lines of 6′ high fences to channel ped traffic out of their way to the official crossing. I don’t think the NCC wants to festoon this park with permanent high fences.)

Regardless of the NCC’s wishes, the Two Hats crossing is important and will continue to be used even with the curb cut removed (only traffic engineers still believe in the sacredness of curb cuts as permitting and governing pedestrian desire lines).

It will continue to be a desire line because

  1. a signalized intersection is in the City plans for Rochester/Carling, just off picture to the right, to cater to the increasing demand for a safer crossing. This will feed ped traffic towards Two Hats.
  2. there are several apartment towers (well over 2000 residences) proposed for the Carling/Preston intersection zone, which will increase ped demand for a crossing here in the next decades.
  3. there are proposals to better connect the Trillium MUP to QED and the Park, which I do not see acknowledged in the crossing plans, and which may steer more ped and cyclist traffic to this area.

In summary, removing the current crossing, while risky today, is unwarranted. Instead, it should be improved. Put in another PedX light feature, preferably with a diverter island for car traffic. Slower traffic may even mean a chance for motorists to get a glance at the Lake and green green grass.

And kudos to planners for learning how to photoshop their drawings, so ordinary mortals can better understand what is proposed and how it will look and function. Transportation planning can become less arcane, less restricted to specialized insiders who may not have our interests at heart.

You can give your opinion of the proposed crossings at the NCC website:


11 thoughts on “Some real ped improvements, and some not

  1. Thanks very much for this, Eric. I filled in the survey and got the impression the crossing at Two Hats will remain.

    As for your question about whether the painted line on QED is necessary when right beside the MUP, I believe the answer is yes–the speed limit on the path is 20kph and the range of speed between walkers, and cyclists in a hurry who may not be obeying the limit can be huge. This should move those riding too quickly onto the road, where they should be, and result in fewer incidents on the pathway between riders and pedestrians.

    And for the record, I am one of those cyclists who tend to ride faster than the limit when conditions are conducive. I ride a very good bike and it does 20kph on it’s own with a gentle tailwind, so I tend to stay on the road, but not always. Often, many others on the MUP are going just as fast and risk theirs and others safety regularly.

    1. Rick: being an old wheezer on a lead weight bike, I tend to notice pathway traffic rather than on road traffic. I was conflicted as to whether to make the observation or not, but anyhow, the fat road concept has got to get out there as it is here, it is real.

      1. Rick: the NCC phrases everything in good news terms, but look at the picture — no road crossing at two hats ! Look at the removed curb cut, and removed asphalt … thus they are still sinners in my book.

        1. I filled out the form and there was no indication re Two Hats crossing remaining. A great many Canadians died to cause that statue to arrive here. The people of Holland honoured us with Two Hats and we should ensure people can safely reach it.

    2. This is actually a problem. Most people select “Strongly approve” in the survey when asked about crossover at Dows Lake without realizing that they strongly approve removal of the crossing at the Man with Two Hats.
      I had to go back in the survey and select “Oppose” and explain my reasoning in comments.
      Did NCC do that on purpose?

  2. Perhaps the NCC should consider using such pedestrian crossings on the future Sir John Macdonald Linear Park rather than the current pedestrian underpasses. Construction of the Linear Park will start in 2018-19 with Phase 2 of the LRT between Dominion and Cleary and will include narrowing the roadway to create more park space

    While the pedestrian underpasses keep pedestrians safe they create long stretches of road which encourages cars to speed ( 80 KM/hr) increasing the traffic noise levels discouraging park use.

    Recent European Community studies have determined acceptable noise levels in parks:


    The studies recommended to keep traffic noise levels in quiet areas below 45-55 dB, eg near parks. It found that %70 or park visitors consider the acoustic environment good at 50dB while only %40 of park visitors consider 60dB environment good

    For any park areas on the parkway to be successful the traffic noise level will need to be 50dB or below.

    These crosswalks are much cheaper than underpasses and combined with red light cameras could reduce speeding and noise levels . Reduced speed limits ( eg to 40-50Km/hr) would lower traffic noise levels. Lower speed limits would also allow drivers to have a better scenic experience on the Parkway, while only increasing travel time by only a few minutes.

    1. Don: thanks for the comments. To my recollection, the NCC is proposing two such ped crossings of the Sir JAM pkwy, one at rochester field, and the other further west. I’ve forgotten the details.

  3. I agree with Mr Hellard’s comments, I too tend to ride the road there. I’ve noted too that since the construction detour forces cyclists to detour to the sidewalk….more of us are staying on the road.

  4. Add another in favour of the bike lane – although I didn’t initially realize that QE Place appears to be where the lane starts/ends (judging by the design drawing). My daily commute takes me from Preston to QE Place along the QE driveway – I was hoping for a bike lane for that whole stretch.

    I do wonder how effective the reduced speed limit (40km/h) around that intersection will be if there’s nothing more than a sign. I didn’t see any indication of where the reduced limit starts and ends, and I’d guess that most drivers will at most reduce the pressure on the gas pedal and roll through at 55 or so.

    Also, the intent is to discourage crossing at TMW2H – from the NCC description of the changes:

    “Due to sightline constraints, pedestrian crossings of the Queen Elizabeth Driveway near The Man With Two Hats monument will be discouraged through landscaping and curb modifications.”

    1. People flow like water, along the path of least resistance, from where they are to where they want to go. Efforts to discourage pedestrians crossing at The Man with Two Hats monument will have to involve significant impediments, such as fencing. Raising a curb will only affect those who cannot lift their feet (or wheels) another few centimetres.

      1. absolutely agree. I often think when it comes to pathway intersections, before they pave, they should let it sit for a week then pave where people walk.

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