Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sidewalks by Design

Our fair city continues to insist that it is pedestrian friendly. Of course, this friendliness comes second to being very friendly to motorists.

At first glance the above photo is so typical of Ottawa surely it is nothing worthwhile noting? But consider the engineering and design effort that goes into designing a road and sidewalk system that consistently delivers a slushy puddle at hundreds of thousands of sidewalk dips all across our city for four or five months of the year. Consider the thought and effort that goes into ensuring pedestrians are directed onto steeply sloping sidewalks at exactly the same geographical point as the slush and ice and muck is put onto that same sidewalk!

I used to think this was part of a scheme to reduce pension obligations, since a high percentage of elderly falls result in a broken hip that results in death within six months. But I no longer believe that, since the downtown neighborhoods are increasingly bereft of elderly persons and the puddles remain. I do however remain impressed at the consistency and frequency at which the city can deliver these sidewalk features throughout our west side neighborhoods.


  1. In Washington DC all sidewalks continue at the same level. There are no driveway cuts. As the pusher of a wheelchair user you cannot believe how fantastic this is. A small bubble of paving is placed at the street edge to facilitate the car's descent.

    I am in process of finding out the relative cost of the two methods. I suspect that one level sidewalks are less expensive. We would probably get snowplow complaints.

    We also have to keep in mind that some of those slush puddles gather at the accessibility sidewalk cuts at corners. Hate to see those disappear.

  2. Ken, I like your idea about level sidewalks. To your concern about corners, if crosswalks were elevated by a few inches (as they are in some intersections for safety reasons) then Eric's problem's should drain away from the pedestrian path.

    As a compromised between flat sidewalks and easy snow-plowing, I've seen some cities build short steep ramps into the sidewalk for entryways. This leaves most of the sidewalk width level with only a foot or less of ramp impinging on the sidewalk. Given that vehicles should be moving slowly when crossing sidewalks (emphasis on should) highly banked ramp should pose not problems, and might increase pedestrian safety.

    Such sidewalks might also be easier to plow.