Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pedestrian desires ignored

The City is pretty much finished its reconstruction, streetscaping, and traffic calming work along Bayview Avenue near Scott. The picture above is of the recently sodded field between Tom Brown arena and the Bayview/Scott/Albert intersection. The dividing line between the old field (left) and new sod (centre) is obvious.

Notice how pedestrians cut across the field starting right at the end of the steel crash barrier along the road. The barrier effectively discourages many pedestrians from taking even shorter short cuts; as soon as the barrier ends, a few paths appear immediately.

There is a city sidewalk, but it goes around the perimeter of the site, glued to the edge of the road. The city assumes that road geometry = pedestrian needs. That pedestrians have non-road-alignment needs and desires was apparent before the construction (there were paths in the grass for decades!) and the need to pave these to provide a safer walking environment was identified in community planning documents.

Why doesn't the City pave these paths to meet pedestrian needs? Mostly I think it is a mind-set issue. The City provides roads for the convenience of motorists, and pedestrians are a nusicience add-on only. There may also be a maintenance issue: if the city acknowledges these paths by paving them, it needs to plow them and this requires paths that follow a plow-able geometry. However, by ignoring what are obviously well-used paths, I think the city opens itself up for liability issues in that it is ignoring what it plainly must see before its face. It cannot hide behind the figleaf of deliberate ignorance.


  1. Does the City need to plow them? More likely it will put up barriers in the winter month to keep pedestrians out... Sylvia Holden park has such a path and it also has a barrier up from November to May denying access, precisely so the city does not need to plow

  2. This is how the sidewalks on the university campus were laid out at the University of Calgary. To look at it now, it looks like a real web of sidewalks but it was done in response to students cutting from building to building across the grass and really seemed to work. I am not sure why it wouldn't be employed more often.

  3. To provide paths where pedestrians desire would recognize the sovereignty of the people over that of the "professional planners, architects, etc" and simply cannot be tolerated. Back 30 yrs ago I recall my landscape architecture course covering desire lines, purely as a novelty of course.

  4. God forbid pedestrians show up a neighborhood planner.