Comment 78075

By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 07, 2012 at 09:58:55

Here's what I come back to on the one-way streets in our city: They're highways. Calling them anything else is absurd - traffic tends to go along at about 60kph, which is faster than a residential or commercial road, but slower than an expressway.

Now, there can be arguments made in favour of these highways. Obviously we have highways for a good reason. Highways are often necessary. Let's just call a spade a spade.

So what does a highway look like? Do highways have sidewalks next to them? Not generally, but when a sidewalk exists next to one of Ontario's rural highways, it's usually protected by a ditch, or at least a grassy boulevard, not running right next to the live traffic. How do people cross highways? Well, usually there's a lighted intersection, or a push-button crossing (see Cootes Drive). You often see highways only protected with a single stop-sign, but that's not generally present in regions that have a lot of pedestrians. Sometimes you even see breezeways over the highway.

So if we want to have a highway running through downtown, are we willing to invest the money and space to make it a proper highway? To properly protect pedestrians? Because if you're going to have something as crazy as an urban highway, you probably shouldn't be doing it on the cheap. I mean, does anybody feel unsafe crossing the King St. 403 bridge (minus the terrible onramp crossing)? No, because there's a big-ass set of Jersey barriers between you and the traffic.

So here's my suggestion for our urban highways:

1) You need something on either side of the highway putting some space between the sidewalks and the road. Boulevards and ditches waste space, so let's use it for something productive. How about a bike-lane on the right and a permanent parked car lane on the left?

2) On the left, having a permanent parked lane is often frustrating to drivers since you turn left into a non-live traffic lane. So bump-outs. Commit to it. It's not a driving lane.

3) On the right, the question is how to protect the bike lane. As much as I'd love jersey-barriers or bollards, this is single-directional, and you can't really make it wide enough to accomodate a bobcat that way. Giving us a two-foot region of crosshatched "don't drive here" between live traffic and the bike lane would help and then you could plough it with the municipal snowplows instead of a dedicated bobcat. The alternative is having it at grade with pedestrians, and that's just trading one unsafe problem for another. The "luxury" model would be a bi-directional protected-bike-lane with bobcats for clearing, but that means contraflow traffic, a lot of road-space consumed, and far more expensive snow-clearing. There's no easy answer here. Yeah, I want big-ass Jersey barriers everywhere there isn't a driveway personally, but making that ploughable means losing a lot of width.

4) We could also do with some more space at the cross-walks too... bike lane to the rescue again! A nice bike-box would put more distance between drivers and pedestrians, and would also solve the trouble of turning left from our bike-lane that sits 5ish lanes away from the left-turn lane.

5) More lighted crossings. It's unsafe to cross highways at unprotected intersections. Hey, it's cheaper since they're one-way, you don't need the backwards-facing traffic lights, and it doesn't slow down traffic because of the Green Wave! But drivers look ahead at the next light and miss a red! Fine, any pairs that are too close to cause the look-ahead effect should be synchronized instead of waved. Ohhh, but traffic lights are expensive! Well then just make it two-way, that's cheaper. If you really need to save money, leave off the north/south facing traffic lights - drivers already have a stop-sign there anyways, just leave the stop-sign up. You only need the 1-way traffic lights and the pedestrian crossing lights.

6) Anything that doesn't need to be a highway shouldn't be a highway. We don't need two westbound highways, so King can be two-way east of Queen Street. We don't need Herkimer and Bay and Bold and Charlton and all those smaller roads in Durand to be 1-way. (as an aside, Cannon needs a big expressway-style sign at Queen Street saying "THIS FREAKING WAY TO THE 403/QEW" so people don't keep lumbering along Cannon/York Blvd and get stuck in the quagmire of Dundurn... it's a highway, sign it like one).

Comment edited by Pxtl on 2012-06-07 10:24:15

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