By Ryan McGreal
Published December 09, 2010
this blog entry has been updated
In a recent conversation with Nicholas Kevlahan about the walkability fail at Aberdeen Ave and Kent St, he pointed out that at a normal walking speed, a 400 m detour (200 m each way to Locke or Queen Street) represents a five-minute walk on average - and much longer if the person walking is a young child or elderly.
He asked, "Can you imagine the uproar if we told drivers to go several minutes out of their way just to convenience pedestrians?"
So why do we place a higher value on motorists' time than we place on pedestrians' time? Is it an assumption that someone who is driving is by definition more important and busy than someone who is walking? What about those people most likely to be walking instead of driving, the very young and the very old (and the people taking care of them)?
What does it say about our public values that we would make pedestrians walk between five and twelve minutes out of their way so that a driver doesn't have to sit at a stop for 30 seconds?
It's not just at Aberdeen and Kent, either. The other day I found myself at the northwest corner of King St. and Dundurn St. and wanted to cross to the northeast corner, which has a Fortino's supermarket and several other stores.
Of course, it's illegal to cross north-south on the west side of the intersection - lest a motorist racing from Dundurn toward Hwy 403 have to wait thirty seconds for a pedestrian.
A sign on the northwest corner of King and Dundurn prohibits pedestrian crossings
Doubtless the prohibition has been couched in terms of protecting pedestrian safety, as if so outrageous an act as crossing the street at a signalized intersection were akin to swimming with Great White Sharks.
The result is that the only legal way to cross is to walk from the northwest corner to the northeast corner, from the northeast corner to the southeast corner, and from the southeast corner to the southwest corner. That means waiting through three traffic light changes, plus advanced-green turn signals.
All of this so that motorists don't have to wait 30 seconds for a pedestrian to cross the street at a crosswalk. Once again, we place a higher value on drivers' time than we do on pedestrians' time.
Incidentally, the west side of the corner at King Street and Locke Street also prohibits north-south pedestrian crossings. Are you starting to see a pattern? In both cases, the prohibition blocks pedestrians from getting in the way of north- or south-facing motorists turning west onto the one-way King.
Given that City staff have abandoned their plan to convert King Street to two-way traffic, I don't see any evidence that the City is changing its mind about the relative priorities of motorists vs. everyone else.
Update: the first paragraph originally read, "...he pointed out that at a normal walking speed, a 400 m detour (200 m each way to Locke or Queen Street) represents an eight-minute walk on average." In fact, a fit adult can walk this distance in about five minutes.
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