New Pedestrian Bridge

A new pedestrian bridge installed in the fall of 2017 provides access between the Beverly Street area and Intercity

Excellent addition to the active transportation infrastructure in Thunder Bay. This point has a large catchment area that can use the bridge to access shops and services in the Intercity area.

Dog’s Can’t Read…much

This is a popular low-traffic route for pedestrians and cyclists to access the Intercity commercial district and so it seems reasonable to try and separate this traffic from the off-leash dogs in the park.

However, on one occasion when I followed the directions on the sign, while walking through the park, I was joined by an aggressive dog who didn't read the sign. This dog's owner/master/human companion was on the other side of the fence. As the human became concerned and began to raise his voice while trying to call the dog, the dog perceived me as a greater threat. I was lucky that the dog didn't bite, but it did nip, bark and growl as I walked, as calmly as possible, to the end of the fence where the snarling beast was reunited with its human.

As I continued on my walk, it occurred to me that the dog owner and all of the other dog walkers are themselves "pedestrians." Why don't all the humans walk on that side of the fence. Because that would be ridiculous, right?!

The fence is ridiculous! I can't believe that the city payed good money to build this thing.

If anyone asks why I now always walk  on the "Dog" side of the fence (I still cycle on the other side during the summer) I am prepared to introduce them to my invisible (and possibly imaginary) dog, Harvey. If they get to walk on the "Dog" side of the fence then so do I. Otherwise all dogs should be required to pass a reading and comprehension test before entering the park.

Now that the snow is melting, a smelly dog-poop-soup is beginning to form. Irresponsible people who don't pick up after their dogs (yes, even if your dog does their business well off the main path you are still responsible for picking it up dummy) ruin it for everybody.

I like the idea of dog-parks. I think that everyone benefits from urban dogs that are well socialized and that play well with others: humans and assorted four-legged creatures. But I do have some ambivalent feelings about the city providing these types of parks. A large proportion of people, especially in Thunder Bay, drive to work, drive to shop, drive or are driven to school, drive to church; and now a growing number of people drive somewhere to take their dogs for a walk. This is happening at the same time that people are worried about the safety of their urban neighbourhoods and many families that can afford it, move to the suburbs and exurbs to avoid the perceived dangers of "the city." (Never mind, that a longer commute exposes your family to a much a greater danger of death or life changing trauma, compared to personal dangers related to crime - but that's another story.) It would be beneficial for people to walk with their dogs, in their neighbourhoods. This type of activity and 'eyes on the street' have proven to be key components of safe vibrant communities. Plus they wouldn't be taking up space on the road or in the drive-thru at the donut shop on their way to the dog park. This would benefit every driver who actually needs to get somewhere.

Carrick St Dog Park fence

Pedestrian needs to walk on the road due to poor sidewalk condition.

Walking to work this morning I noticed this Lakehead University student walking on Oliver Road because the slushy mess that accumulated on the sidewalk, since the plow last came by, froze into a solid-lumpy-icy mess overnight. The pedestrian would retreat onto the sidewalk when ever there was a press of morning commuters coming at him, and then take a chance that he could make it to the next intersection or driveway before another large group of vehicles came by.

This is a major pedestrian route from a residential area to the University which has approximately 7,000 students in addition to many more staff and faculty. You can see two small green dots in the distance - this is the entrance to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Center. This is the only acute care hospital in Thunder Bay, and serves the entire region. Oliver Road is one of two routes to the hospital. I have witnessed parents pushing their children in strollers along the roadway, where this student is walking, because the sidewalks are not passable. This is also a transit route. Sad!

 

Piling Snow to Block the Path

I'm not sure why someone thinks it is appropriate to pile snow in front of the paved recreation path through Incinerator Park. It could be because the path is not plowed during the winter. And in spite of this fact the path is obviously well used and there is always a well packed trail very soon after every new snowfall. It is not hard to figure out why the path is well used when you look at the importance of this pedestrian and cycling route to the neighbourhood. The question is: "why is this trail not better maintained?"

The path through the park between Ray Blvd and Ravenwood Ave is approximately 245 m. A relatively easy jaunt for most. The two alternate routes are approximately 6 times the distance at 1,460 m walking up to Oliver Rd or 1,410 m walking down to Beverly St. Considering that most people will not walk more than 400 m if given a choice of transportation options, means that abandoning this route during the winter is extremely irresponsible. 

Garbage cans to collect the Tim Horton's trash at the east end of the trail and Mac's Milk litter at the west end would also be a major improvement! The next thing you know, residents will want lighting along the trail...

Sidewalk Snow Clearing

MontageSidewalkSnowplow

I believe that there is a general attitude that considers snow as just something that we need to live with. “We live in Thunder Bay, what are you going to do…?” But many of the situations that make some sidewalks impassable for weeks at a time are the result of planning decisions.

The photos above were taken mid-February along Oliver Road in Thunder Bay. Oliver was widened to it’s current configuration sometime in the 1980’s as far as I can tell from historic air photos. When the road was constructed to accommodate a larger volume of vehicular traffic the curbs were placed within 30 cm from the sidewalk in some places. Now after the sidewalk plow comes by, the road plow often moves the snow from the road back onto the sidewalk, as can be seen in the photo on the left. The middle photo was taken on the same day but beside the Lakehead University campus where there is sufficient snow storage for this volume. Even after the sidewalk plow returns a day or two later, the sidewalk is now a valley  between two constructed snow banks that accumulates a deep, soft, slushy mess whenever the weather warms that then becomes a bumpy, slippery, dangerous surface when it gets cold again. The sidewalk plow can seldom remove this mess and it persists until the final spring melt.

Moving the road edge close to the sidewalk also subjects pedestrians to the threat of being splashed with a dirty, icy slurry during the winter and dirty water when it rains during the summer. This is not an act of God, or just an inevitable result of our climate. It was a choice made to improve the transportation network for vehicles, at the expense of pedestrians. When planning decisions such as these are made, contingencies must be considered to at least improve snow clearing along the route. The excuse of excessive expense is not acceptable. The City assumes that increasing the amount of asphalt will increase costs for road repair/rehabilitation, painting lines, maintaining intersections and clearing snow from the road; the extra costs for properly maintaining the sidewalk must also be “baked” into the cost of widening the road. No excuses.

Update to Vehicle Access

I am updating the previous post regarding vehicle access to public parkland. Snow_Com_Aud

It seems strange that staff clearing snow from the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium parking lot would purposely keep a vehicle route open into the park. During a busy winter, they always took the time to diligently keep this path open.

The other side of the park had a restriction to vehicles that was in place for a couple of years.

IncineratorRavenwoodEntranceYou can see from the photo that the bollard has not been present for a while (nor was it ever effective at keeping vehicles out of the park).

In addition to fly-tipping, noted in the previous post, you can see that this access also allows idiots to rip up the grass with their vehicles.IncineratorTireTracks

Roads, parking lots and driveways already represent a large proportion of the urban landscape. Motorized vehicles should not be allowed to degrade our parks and greenspaces.

Vehicle Access

The City has attempted to block vehicle access to parks and undeveloped areas around town. In many cases these barriers are eventually breached and, unfortunately, this inevitably leads to fly-tipping. WinnipegAveWalkway

FurnitureDiscardAuditoriumParkingLot

The earthen berm at the end of the Community Auditorium parking lot has been periodically rebuilt. The most recent removal of this barrier allowed at least one vehicle to drive between the baseball diamonds in Incinerator Park, tearing up the grass, and at least one pick-up truck load of trash was dumped at the edge of the bush inside the park this spring.

I can imagine the motives of some people, who are anxious to receive their rental damage-deposit back when they move. Many do not have access to a truck, or the money to rent one. This includes a few post-secondary students who move away after exams in the spring. The City policies regarding residential garbage pickup and tipping fees at the dump are sound but it has to be acknowledged that these same policies will motivate some to dispose of their trash where ever they can. The costs of monitoring, and cleaning up this sort of household waste from parks and undeveloped areas, and perhaps offering dump runs for low income families, should be included in the overall implementation of these policies.

I applaud all of the individuals and organisations that participate in the annual Spring-up to Clean-up program, promoted by EcoSuperior. But, perhaps, the thousands of hours of volunteer labour used to clean up Thunder Bay and pull tires, couches and all manner of debris from the bush, allows the City to be complacent about keeping vehicles out of some areas, providing and maintaining garbage cans, and considering the needs of people who can’t afford to properly deal with large quantities of trash. If the City had to pay their own employees for the hours it takes to do the Spring-up to Clean-up campaign, I think there would be more effort put in to prevent the problem in the first place.

There are a few people that have access to a truck and still choose to illegally dump their garbage. Preventing vehicle access to parkland in the city, lighting and monitoring of other areas, and increasing the maximum fine for illegally dumping are some measures that should be taken.

On a final note, for those that don’t consider yard waste, such as tree branches, as garbage – the reason you don’t leave it on your own front lawn is because it soon starts to look like an ugly pile of trash!

Crossing Memorial Ave

Memorial_High_SouthIt is very difficult to see the next traffic light when looking south on Memorial Ave from High St. The light, including the next marked pedestrian crossing, is approximately 1 kilometre away. Consider being midway between these intersections and needing to cross the street. During busy times of day it is difficult to find a safe break in traffic and crossing the 5 lanes of traffic is dangerous for anyone with mobility difficulty, at any time. If  the pedestrian walks to the light and then back down the other side of the street it could require walking a full kilometre to get where you want to go. Of course, if you have difficulty walking it is dangerous without a controlled crossing, but prohibitive to walk a kilometre to simply cross the street. It is interesting to note that most research into pedestrian behaviour shows that people with ready access to a vehicle will choose not to walk if the destination is more than about 400 m away.

Memorial_High_North

 

Looking north from High St we see a similar situation. It is possible to just make out the controlled intersection at John St but it is almost 800 metres away. Again, crossing between the lights is difficult and dangerous and yet a prohibitive distance to walk to the lights if you are not close to High St or John St. The more difficult it is for you to cross the street, the more onerous the extra distance to a controlled intersection becomes.

Memorial Ave is not part of suburban sprawl, but is a busy commercial strip which runs right through the heart of Thunder Bay. Having only one safe pedestrian crossing along a 1.8 km stretch of this artery is crazy! The Ontario government recently passed the Enhancing Road Safety in Ontario Act. It allows municipalities to use new pedestrian crossing devices. There are many places in Thunder Bay where these are needed but nowhere more so than along this stretch of Memorial Ave.

Another New Curb

Court_McVicar_trail.jpg

Nice new sidewalk. But where is the cut in the new curb? This is at the intersection of Court St and McVicar St. A perfectly appropriate and legal place for a pedestrian to cross the street. The recreation trail continues on both sides of Court St, along McVicar Creek, and so it is difficult to believe that the City would not consider the pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and others who will cross here. I can’t hop the curb with my recumbent bike, it would be difficult for children on bicycles and impossible for someone with a wheelchair.

Encouraging active transportation is a stated goal of the City but does not yet seem to be integrated into other planning. I have noted dozens of similar deficiencies with infrastructure constructed in recent years. Thunder Bay is spending more money on sidewalks and cycling lanes but continue to build unnecessary barriers to pedestrians and cyclists.

Intersection at Red River Rd

Red_River_Rd_Algonquin.JPG

This intersection at Red River Rd and Algonquin St in Thunder Bay was redone this past summer – new curbs, traffic control lights and sidewalk approaches. Notice that there are no pedestrian signals, or pavement markers on this side of Algonquin St to cross Red River Rd. In order to cross the street and head East (to the right) using the intersection as designed requires pedestrians to cross Algonquin, cross Red River Rd and then backtrack. I realize that commuters who don’t walk for transportation would say “what’s the big deal? So you need to walk triple the distance to cross the street and wait for two lights instead of just one – as long as you’re not impeding the flow of real traffic.”

Most traffic, vehicular and pedestrian goes left here towards a busy commercial strip on Red River Rd. There is another light with pedestrian signals less than a block away to the West. It’s four blocks to the next light going East and so walking out of your way may be necessary unless you cross here without the benefit of pedestrian lights and scale the snowbank on the other side of Red River Rd.