Pedestrians as walkers and as people using the street generally are quite polite about it, because the consequences of being foolhardy or inattentive can be deadly. There is still a lot that can be done to make walking easier, more comfortable and convenient in Vancouver and across the country. Walking is all about the details-curb drops, wide sidewalks, smooth surfaces with non glare treatment, lots of visual interest, benches and ensuring there are places to walk to and through. Perhaps it is because walking is not sexy-it is done by the disenfranchised when they are young, and the elderly when they become disenfranchised from vehicle driving-and by everyone in between from a trip by bike, bus or a vehicle. Making the walking environment the best is vital as it encourages sociability and health, and all indicators are pointing to walkability as the number one factor to make folks healthier and happier.
Price Tags has written about the antiquated Ontario Motor Vehicle Act and the town of Perth Ontario where the business association created marked crosswalks at intersections, but vehicles don’t have to stop for the shoppers crossing the road. Indeed the crosswalks are called “courtesy” crossings, hoping a car will be polite enough to stop, with a warning to pedestrians to ensure the cars stop before they venture off the curb. In Ontario a vehicle is not required to stop at a marked crosswalk unless it has overhead lights, usually a six figure cost, or a crossing guard, to protect kids. You just can’t make this stuff up. So twentieth century.
Another supreme insult to pedestrians noted by CBC Ottawa occurred last week outside the Alt Hotel located at 185 Slater Street downtown. Imagine-the hotel decided to paint in bright purple a “loading zone” for the hotel right on the sidewalk in front of the hotel, to show guests it was quite all right to just drive onto pedestrian terrain to unpack their luggage.
Ottawa is not a place that has very generous sidewalks, continual curb drops, or many amenities for walkers. But painting two parking spots for guests on the fronting sidewalk? The general manager of the hotel stated “If [vehicles] stay on the purple, then I don’t really see a problem. But I’m not sure for a busy downtown street, with a lot of pedestrian traffic, I don’t think it was the best idea.”
Surprisingly the City of Ottawa gave the go ahead to the Alt hotel to purple up their sidewalk in advance of a full-time loading zone which will eventually be built. Even worse, the City of Ottawa’ engineering manager in charge of this transgression calls it a “bit of a pilot”. The manager stated: “Every time we make changes on the public roadway it takes a bit of time for the people to figure it out. We’ll see how it works. We’re monitoring it, we’re working with the hotel operator and the developer as well, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll remove it.”
Now you will notice that the City is dealing with the hotel owner and the developer, but no one is talking to the pedestrian, who used to be the full-time user of that sidewalk. Motordom reigns supreme in the country’s capital. And this is just plain wrong.