Sunday, July 07, 2013

What's wrong with this picture?

This is taken from the walkway on the railroad bridge, looking down on Spadina. On the left you can see the end of the new trail that parallels 33rd Street.

I think it's great that the city is building more trails. But it bugs me every time I go by here. (Ask Shelley, she has to listen to my recurring rants!)

There is no crosswalk!

Here's another view. You can see that the stop sign for the cars is in a completely different spot from where the trail crosses. Cars have never had to deal with pedestrians and cyclists and skateboarders at this point, and there is absolutely nothing to warn them.

I believe the plan is to have a round-about here and no doubt there will eventually be a crosswalk. But this has been like this for six months. The city ploughed the snow off it all winter, so presumably they intend for it to be used.

They can do all the work of building the trail, paving it, putting in ramps, (to make it even easier for people to spill out onto the road), ploughing it in the winter, landscaping, and planting grass but no one thinks of putting up a crossing sign, or painting some lines on the road, or heaven forbid putting in speed bumps? It's a bit like the old joke about encouraging your kids to play on the freeway.

I guess they're waiting till the round-about is built. But you wouldn't leave a main automobile intersection uncontrolled for six months or a year until the stop lights went in. You'd put in temporary stop signs.

You can tell from the first picture that I'm avoiding the crossing by taking the railway bridge across the street - a much safer route. Except the plan is to stop people from crossing the road on the railway bridge. I'm not sure why. Probably partly pressure from the railroad, and partly to save the cost of maintaining the stairs on the west side of Spadina. The fact that the overhead crossing is much easier and safer for pedestrians obviously wasn't important.

This incident wouldn't bug me so much if it wasn't yet another symptom of how if you're not in an automobile you don't really count.

I think part of the problem is that the people involved think that their goal is to lay down a strip of asphalt. It seems to me the goal should be to provide better ways for  people to move around the city by a variety of means. Those strips of asphalt are just one piece of the puzzle.

We have a similar problem in the computer software business. Instead of thinking about how to help people accomplish their goals, we end up adding bells and whistles and features that are hard to use.

Also in the picture above notice the unofficial path worn in the grass by people trying to get to where they can cross at an actual stop sign. Presumably, even after the round-about, people (like me) will want to go north-west (where the dirt trail goes) as well as west to the new trail. Yet there appears to be no attempt to make a paved path here. I guess we can hope that will come with the roundabout, although I wouldn't count on it. That dirt path has been there for years.

It's this emphasis on adding bits of asphalt rather than helping people get around that leads to our disconnected trails that start and stop in the middle of nowhere and have inexplicable gaps. It's what leads to bicycle routes that end abruptly at signs that helpfully say "Bicycle route ends here". As if we can at that point dematerialize, or get back in a car (or preferably a big truck) like "normal" people. Or signs that show a cyclist going down the middle of a lane in front of a car. Have the people who put in those signs ever tried that? At best you get honked and cursed at. Or run off the road and your bicycle thrown in the ditch (a recent local incident).

I always wondered about these disconnected pieces of trail (highlighted below) until I looked at them on Google maps and it became obvious that they were designed, not for people, but to connect roads. I'm sure it made sense to a road designer. Even better, the roads don't even have sidewalks on the park side so you have to cross the road each time.

Even if the focus is on leisure use of the trails rather than us wackos who might actually want to commute by some means other than automobile, it still doesn't make sense to have disconnected trails with gaps (and no crosswalks).

I think another factor that leads to this is that the people that design and build these trails don't use them. Certainly some of the people that lobby for them are cyclists and walkers. But the guys that build them are far more likely to drive around in big trucks. They wouldn't dream of building a road that had a gap in the middle.

While I'm ranting, I'll also question why they had to rip up all the bushes and grass that have been on this hill for many years and required no tending? Presumably to plant a "prettier" lawn that will then require watering and mowing and fertilizer and weed killers. I guess we can only have a hint of wildness in an official "naturalized" park. What a culture, when we're not obsessing over our automobiles, we're obsessing over our lawns.


  1. I also can't help but notice that large concrete slab that exists just to make the right hand turning lane easier. Surly they could have just extended the second south bound lane past the intersection and not had the "on ramp". That would have also made the intersection a standard 3 way, with standard cross walks, and saved a large portion of space. But no, we have to take away a sizable chunk of valuable land just to appeal to traffic.