The city is currently working on (or, at least, consulting about) the redevelopment of Elgin Street.
Elgin Street desperately needs the Complete Streets treatment (and the true Complete Streets treatment, not the compromised, driving-accommodating lie that the city calls its Complete Streets policy). I’ve written before about the need to both animate the street and give more room to pedestrians. (Bicyclists need more room, too.)
The local councillor, Catherine McKenney, has called this a test for the city. A while ago, the city adopted a policy of trying to implement the Complete Streets philosophy with every street re-construction.
So far, they’ve failed. Oh, there’s always an excuse. This street isn’t right for it. No one suggested it. This is just a re-surfacing, not a re-construction, so it doesn’t count. We’re probably someday going to build something on a different street, so we don’t have to do it on this one. But, regardless, they’ve failed.
They’ve failed on the Booth Street Bridge. They’ve failed on Kent Street. They’ve failed on Ogilvie Road. They’ve failed on Montreal Road. They’ve failed on Innes Road. They’ve failed on Bronson Avenue.
So yeah, this is another test.
The city wants to know what we want. Do we want a liveable, walkable, lively downtown street or do we want the status quo and car storage?
Residents, overwhelmingly, want a Complete Street. Businesses, overwhelmingly, want complete parking. As we’ve seen on O’Connor “bikeway”, a complaint from a business can override all other planning.
It’s horrid to think that we’d even consider maintaining the status quo. It’d be municipal malpractice. This council could screw up downtown for a generation, just as a previous council did with Bank Street.
We need to salvage Elgin Street.
On Sunday, I had to walk from the Rideau Centre to the YMCA. This meant I would, essentially, walk the entire length of Elgin Street–which meant I had to cross at every crosswalk and every light along Elgin. Here’s how it went:
I missed the light at Queen Street. Okay. This was the first light to which I came, and I was detoured because of construction, so this is just life.
I missed the light at Albert Street.
I missed the light at Slater Street.
I missed the light at Laurier Avenue.
There’s no light at Gloucester Street.
I missed the light at Nepean Street.
I missed the light at Lisgar Street.
I made the light at Cooper Street…but only because I crossed against the red at Lisgar.
I missed the light at Somerset Street.
I missed the light at McLaren Street.
I missed the light at Gilmour Street.
There’s no light at Lewis Street.
I missed the light at Waverley Street.
There’s no light at Frank Street.
I made the light at Gladstone Avenue…but only because I crossed against the red at Waverley.
There’s no light at McLeod Street (at which point, I cut through the museum parking lot to get over to the Y).
That’s right. The only time I didn’t miss a light was when I crossed illegally at the previous light. If I had followed the laws, I would have missed every light from Queen Street to McLeod Street.
Elgin Street–with its density, its attractions and its high level of pedestrians–is thoroughly hostile to walking. This is what we mean when we say Ottawa is a car-centric city. This is what needs to change.
Elgin Street, like so many other streets, punishes people for walking. This is why people jaywalk. This is why they cross against the light. It is unreasonable to expect people to obey these laws when every aspect of our infrastructure is designed to defeat them.
Elgin Street will be a test. The city has failed every other test that has come its way. We’ll see if they do anything this time.