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:
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:
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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: