What were they thinking … part 73, sidewalk edition

It doesn’t take much going around the city to find oneself wondering “what on earth were they thinking of when they did this?”. The “they” of course can be any one. Often it’s the City. Sometimes developers. Or homeowners.

Remember the old car ramp in front of the Skyline – Crowne Plaza Hotel downtown on Kent Street? Ugly beyond belief, another typical Campeau-built structure with no front door relationship to the street. (We know what they were thinking: cars rule; pedestrians get the basement).



So, the hotel, forty some years after it was built, finally has a front door onto Kent. Still has a drop off zone too, but at least it is flat and there is some landscaping. Whew. It’s all better now.

Well, not quite. Take a walk on the north side of the building, using the Queen Street sidewalk. There is a very slight grade difference between the driveway ramp and the sidewalk where it dips in acquiescence to the motorist (wouldn’t want those taxis to go bump now would we?):

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It would have been so easy to smooth out the ramp-sidewalk interface. But no, someone decided the ramp shall remain flat while on private property, and the sidewalk shall have a slope when on City property, and the peak of that interface shall be on the property line, which … well, it just happens to run down the dead centre of the sidewalk, along the joint line shown below. It positively invites sprained ankles.

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Surely the City’s sidewalk inspector is on his way right now. He’s sure to spot the danger and order it fixed. Won’t he?

There is an upside though. There’s a good chance the sidewalk, ramp, shrubs and trees will all be torn out in the next two years as the photos are taken from the new escalator and elevator entrance to the Confederation line LRT down below.

Now over to Bronson. A few things have been working out alright there. For several blocks the sidewalks have been kept flat at driveways, and the vehicles have to mount the sidewalk to cross it, using a foot or so wide ramp. It is by far the best installation of this design I have seen in the City:

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It is possible to walk two abreast without rollercoastering or being steered down onto the fast road traffic.

So, take a peek at the corner of Bronson and Somerset, part of the same project, same crews, same contractor. There is a one, single car driveway that is not much more than an indent in the buildings. The car shown here takes up 100% of the driveway. It’s right near a bus stop. So it is certainly not a busy laneway entrance, or parking lot entrance, or even a long driveway, yet the sidewalk contractors built an incredibly long slope so that one car wouldn’t have a bump at the curb.

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Yet when walking along the sidewalk the change to the driveway slope is so sharp and sudden it’s like missing the bottom step of a stairway. I just about fell when I stepped into the hole, and when fiddling to take the picture, watched an elderly lady do the same. Soon there were four people staring at the sidewalk wondering what caused the stumble. What were they thinking?

(Actually, I can answer that rhetorical question, since I talked to the sidewalk installer on site. He is very proud of how gentle the slope is, how there is so little bump at the curb line, so that it is sooo smoooth for the driver. When I said he was a shame there wasn’t as much consideration for the pedestrian, he looked at me blankly. )

But it’s not all bad. Tomorrow, inspiration for a new complete street design.




6 thoughts on “What were they thinking … part 73, sidewalk edition

  1. The lack of consideration given to sidewalk slopes is not only tragic for pedestrians, but for individuals with walkers, stroller and in wheelchairs. The slope puts each in harms way. The reality of our weather from November to April, potential ice, slush, full-blown skid-ice is not safe. And, thank you Mayor Jim Watson for your election premise/promise of making Ottawa a wheelchair-friendly city – it is one of the least accessible cities in Canada. Highly disappointing!

    1. Good point, pedestrians have wheels too. Why doesn’t the pedestrian environment cater to pedestrian wheels?

  2. I’ll answer your question about what they were thinking on Queen in my Wednesday blog post. In sum, it’s a 6% slope reduced from a 15% slope and has a heated surface to melt ice.

    On Somerset, I’ll follow up with the project manager to ask why the sidewalk was built incorrectly.

  3. i live hear somerset and Bronson, and walk the area a lot. But I walk with a white cane, and so slopes in sidewalks are a hazard. The one signal that does not seem to regiester with me is a down slope. Up is OK. There are lots of hazards on sidewalks for people like me. A cane can run under the support cables that have been installed for posts, and I can walk into them at many locations! Someone who decides on sidewalk layouts should go for a walk with me sometime

  4. Evidently, multiple issues are at stake here! Why were the users not consulted?
    Jim Watson, you failed. Suburbanites are taken into consideration more than the local residents. When I walk down Bank St. and have cigarette butts tossed by non-local residents is an indication to me that daily in-flow workers have no respect for the people who actually live here and pay higher taxes. This is where you, suburbanites, make your $, have respect for the dwellers.

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