Streets are for people first, Part II

closed sidewalk
CC BY 2.0 Closed sidewalk in Toronto/ Lloyd Alter

In Part I, we noted how cities somehow are able to make provision for cars during construction, but people walking? They have to fend for themselves. I was writing then about Hamilton, Ontario, but walking home from my mom’s apartment this weekend I was stopped dead in my tracks by this: the installation of a new sidewalk that has been going on for a week or two. The construction firm has closed a full lane so that they can park- a trailer full of lumber. During the week when they are working, they park their own cars there.

St. Clair closedJust a lane for cars/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

This spot is in between a couple of seniors residences and the local big grocery store and subway station, so it is a busy sidewalk. The lane that they closed is more than wide enough to provide both a place for them to work and a pedestrian passage, but they don’t. Pedestrians don’t matter much in Toronto, unless they get in the way of cars, slowing them down or causing all kinds of paperwork and delays by getting hit.

There are things that can be done to make construction sites safer for pedestrians; Giant Containers has found a great use for old shipping containers, turning old forty footers into really safe pedestrian walkways that are wide enough that one can actually use. This should be a minimum standard; most pedestrian walkways are so narrow that people can barely pass each other.

This is a big improvement over what pedestrians usually get;

tornto intersectionBathurst and St. Clair, Toronto/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

When I was afraid to ride my bike in the one car lane between a cement mixer and a cement wall, I tried to walk my bike through the hoarding set up for pedestrians. It was impossible; there was not enough room for me to pass someone walking, I had to wait until the entire passage was empty.

be smart© Sunnybrook Hospital

The talk of the city right now is about how many pedestrians are getting squished or killed by cars this autumn, evidently because they are looking at phones or wearing new rubber boots while dressed in black. City council has responded to the crisis by asking the province to ban distracted walking. Instead, they should have taken a walk down the sidewalks of Toronto, at the broken concrete, the construction closures, the condo sign trip hazards and everything else that makes walking dangerous and often impossible. But they won't because they really just care about keeping traffic moving.

Meanwhile, The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s show The Current covered the subject of a ban on distracted walking; Gil Penalosa called it “absolutely ridiculous.” Listen here.

Streets are for people first, Part II
This is no way to treat people who have to use the sidewalk; put pedestrians first.

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