Friday, July 2, 2010

City discovers flat sidewalks !



One of my major complaints about Ottawa city sidewalks is that they grovel and contort themselves for the convenience of motorists. They dip low at driveways, so motorists don't have to rise up to cross the sidwalk, but the pedestrian must go down slope then up slope. Some sidewalks end up looking like roller coasters. These are difficult to keep clear in winter, and every driveway dip turns into a salt and slush puddle or slippery ice surface all winter.

Honestly, the city couldn't have designed a worse sidewalk for pedestrians if their goal is to thwart any pedestrian movement at all.

A few years ago, they installed a bunch of sidewalks in the "toronto style", in which the curbside part of the sidewalk slopes at every driveway but the lawnside of the sidewalk doesn't. This design is equally awful: it puddles at driveways, and the slope is so steep (eg along Gladstone west of Preston) it is scarey to walk on winter or summer. Gotta serve those motorists!

I was pleasantly surprised to see the design shown above being installed on Athlone north of Scott. It is a style I associate with Nepean and suburban areas: the whole curb is sloped, so motorists have to really slow down to cross it and climb the six inch height in a six inch run. But the real treasure is on the sidewalk surface: its flat. No roller coaster. No dipsey doodle. No 10 degree sidewalk tilt. Seldom any puddles or maim-the-elderly-so-we-don't-have-to-pay-them-pension ice puddles.

I had thought the city boffins didn't like this design, not for its sidewalk charactertistics, or its motorists characteristics, but because of its legal implications: because the curb is sloped, there is no physical indication of where the legal curb cut or dip is, so driveways can be widened without planning permission.

For whatever reason, I am delighted to see it on Athlone and look foreward to seeing it elsewhere.

Just for the record, here is an example of the idiotic extremes the city now goes to to avoid motorists crossing the curb having to climb any slope: along Preston, the sidewalks dips even when it is 15' in from curb ...


Ed.Note: David Reevely over at the Citizen picks up this story and takes it on:


7 comments:

  1. Calgary, where I lived at least, has sloped curbs so that the sidewalks are flat.. it's something I miss. It's also great for bikes getting on and off of the sidewalk to get into your driveway.

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  2. They did a similar foul-up on Churchill and Lanark when they rebuilt those streets recently. What really galls me though is that they used bulb-outs in places but didn't make any tactical use of them to eliminate curb cuts.

    Take this example of the entrance to a housing development on Churchill next to the Transitway:
    http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Ottawa&ie=UTF8&om=1&hq=&hnear=Ottawa,+Ottawa+Division,+Ontario&ll=45.395293,-75.755947&spn=0.005605,0.009645&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=45.395167,-75.755822&panoid=XHDabgyW-BT7RI9BunGC4Q&cbp=12,343.29,,0,10.51

    The bulb-out serves no practical purpose. Just up the street is a curb cut for the housing development, clearly heavily used. What they should have done was built a bulb-out around the entrance, with the sloping bit not on the sidewalk but between the sidewalk and the street, screened on either side by bulb out. It would also have marked the beginning of the on-street parking further up the road. The near-side one would have acted as the end of the school bus stop. Now this would have narrowed the road... but pan left and keep panning leftwards. Notice that the new sidewalk on the left and the old sidewalk across the Transitway don't line up. The road could have been shifted across to the left quite easily to keep the road the same width.

    Here's another example from the same project, this time on Lanark:

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Ottawa&ie=UTF8&om=1&hq=&hnear=Ottawa,+Ottawa+Division,+Ontario&ll=45.398706,-75.752449&spn=0.01121,0.01929&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=45.398762,-75.752347&panoid=p2yG1fKkEQYYkV4cOzl1gg&cbp=12,65.77,,0,7.23

    This time the entire sidewalk is depressed, but it need not have been if the slope had been installed between the bulb outs.

    And again, another similar missed opportunity just a little further on:

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Ottawa&ie=UTF8&om=1&hq=&hnear=Ottawa,+Ottawa+Division,+Ontario&ll=45.399083,-75.751247&spn=0.01121,0.01929&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=45.399131,-75.751131&panoid=YALWJ_ziwYaa4fcE2zSujQ&cbp=12,81.38,,0,7.53

    Where space allows, it would be nice to have a narrow boulevard of pavers or cobbles between the curb and the sidewalk that can be used for driveway ramps. That space could potentially hold trees too if it's wide enough (I realize I'm dreaming), as well as things like fire hydrants, bus stops, etc. Elsewhere the continuous curved curb is a pretty good alternative.

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  3. the city's general view of bulbouts is bizarre. They insist the road is wide, and the bulb out is an intrusion to be passed as quickly as possible. I frequently see bulb outs end quickly when the wider section of the road is not useful for parking or anything else because it is ... a driveway.

    You will be encouraged with the reconstruction of somerset east of the otrain, to Preston, where due to high parking demand our streetscaping and bulbouts are often located at major driveway points like to 1010 somerset and the plant rec centre.

    I push hard, in these circumstances, for the parking bays to be paved in brick and a flat curb line separate the bay from the road so we have a two lane road + parking bays; rather than a four lane road with bulb outs. Its all in how it looks ... and then how it functions! It is also vital to have the overhead lighting reflect the same message that it is not four lanes.

    flat sidewalks rule !

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  4. It's funny that you call it the Nepean style. Living in Centrepointe, I can assure you that pedestrian-friendly sidewalks were not a priority in downtown Nepean.

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=31+Wycliffe+St,+Ottawa,+Ottawa+Division,+Ontario+K2G+5L8&ll=45.337954,-75.764444&spn=0,0.015514&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=45.337972,-75.764267&panoid=AcjVqtYwpvjyWy3rbTpqzA&cbp=12,219.36,,0,-3.1

    The sidewalks are quite sloped in front of lawns, and then even more sloped at the driveways. You can walk on them, but you're prone to developing muscle cramps from the repeated awkward gate. I guess you could wear a thicker shoe on one foot. ;-)

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  5. I have fallen on snow-covered sloping sidewalks, when I failed to notice that I was at a driveway, and my feet went out from under me sideways. As I have said on my blog, driving a car is already the easiest way to get around. We should make it easier for other modes of movement, not for cars.

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  6. to RTWAP: I call it nepean style because for many years it was prevalent in Nepean -- maybe not everywhere, and usually only on residential streets except for collectors. The next neighborhood to centrepointe is briargreen, and the sloped curbs preval in that area except on the Meadowbrook collector.

    Despite years of getting it wrong, I am delighted that someone at city hall permitted this flat sidewalk style to be installed. It's big progress for pedestrians.

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  7. Here's an example of this exact style of sidewalk in Chapman Mills.

    http://maps.google.ca/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=nepean,+on&sll=49.891235,-97.15369&sspn=27.881336,45.703125&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Nepean,+Ottawa+Division,+Ontario&ll=45.2754,-75.709491&spn=0.007414,0.011158&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=45.276247,-75.708079&panoid=xJ2GP8nFWO0Q11s9oP3ixg&cbp=12,344.01,,0,2.47

    I can't tell if they're on a slope or not, but I don't understand why this design isn't more widely used either.

    My guess is because the curb is mountable for the full sidewalk- it would allow cars to park on the sidewalk.

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