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October 21, 2017

New interest in public rights of way

Two new Facebook Groups have started in Halifax.this summer, Haligonians on Wheels and Halifax Pedestrians and Walkers.

They have an obvious common interest in the Public Right of Way and sharing of points of view will be productive all around.  PROW standards will certainly be on the agenda of the new Accessibility Directorate.

Which way is this person going?
For people with mobility complications, of course, intersections need careful design.  I have a suspicion that HRM approaches the problem in the most pedestrian manner possible.  I wish they would follow some principles as they build and modernize infrastructure.  Here are the kind of basic principles I have in mind:

  • Safe
    • Driver gets information about pedestrian intentions
    • Keep driver and pedestrian apart
    • Stop using those stupid invisible stripes
      • or should people die for a balanced paint budget?
    • Get the pedestrian across intersections quickly
    • No signs or poles in the way
    • Make ramp part of the sidewalk, not part of the curb
  • Intuitive
    • Buttons placed correctly
  • Consistent and science-based
    • Compound slopes not permitted
  • Easily maintained
    • Set limits for tolerable interruptions
    • If it works for wheelchairs, it probably works for Bobcats.
This kind of departmental mission or policy statement is a good news story to be found on almost any city website, like this one from New York.  But not HRM, where you need to apply to find out even the most innocuous information.  Well, I'm not playing that game - I assume if they don't tell me their mission, they don't have one.  Or maybe the Russians are still working on it.  Grrrr. 


I thought I would revisit the site of the death of Bill Lee, a 73 year old pedestrian who I wrote about in 2014.

As you can see, even though a pedestrian was killed, not much has been done to improve this intersection.  It's a busy crossing, where trail users of all kinds meet the regular infrastructure.  There should be a protocol for evaluating intersections after accidents.  
  • Lighting
  • Driver and victim characteristics
  • Marking
  • Speed limits
  • Weather
Having a bunch of information would allow searching for patterns:
  • Kids on bikes on weekends
  • Pedestrian crossing at dusk in fog
  • Trail user during rush hour
  • The corner store closing at midnight
This would help prioritize and predict.  Tim Bousquet catalogs the events, but the imagination of HRM staff is limited to one variable at a time, so no progress is made.  I wrote a similar critique of an accident for HalifaxExaminer in 2015, but it met with the usual lack of response from the Lotus Eaters.  

Here are some good ideas from Trumpland, where there are requirements for hiking trails as well




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