A Blog Post About Sidewalks Needing to be Flat & Level

Katy Chancey asked me on twitter:

Unfortunately no, it wasn't me, though I was thinking along those lines this morning while walking down Churchill Avenue. Slush puddles! Slush puddles! Slush puddles! 

WestSideAction is my go-to blog for all things sidewalk though. Eric's blog has recently moved so I thought I would grab a copy of "City discovers flat sidewalks" instead of linking to it, just in case it disappears entirely. Here's Eric from 2010.


A reprint of Eric Darwin's WestSideAction, July 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.