Wednesday, September 16, 2009

MacLaren & O'Connor traffic-calming bulbouts

The orphan plot in the island at MacLaren and O'Connor will be the subject of a Guerrilla Gardening event this Saturday, 10am to noon. Here's the invitation from Councillor Holmes(emphasis in original; links added):

Guerilla Gardening Project

WHERE: Mclaren and O'Connor, NE Corner

WHEN: Saturday September 19TH (10am-12pm)

Dear friends,

As summer draws to a close I thought it would be a good time for us to get together for a small guerilla gardening project.

As some of you may have noticed the island plot at Maclaren and O'Connor is being cared for by a friendly, green thumbed, neighbour. Recently much of this person's hard work was cut down by overzealous staff who had confused these new plantings with weeds. Sadly many of the plants were lost before staff could be advised of their error. However, thanks to this persistent neighbour, plant life has again returned to this little plot. Although it has been populated with poppies, day lilies, golden rod and a host of other species there is still room for more.

Can you please bring one or two hardy perennials from your home gardens for this project. If we have too many we will simply find a nearby location to transform. And do you have any other areas that are in need of a little greening so that we can plan our next project.

I hope that the DCA and the CCCA, along with all Centretown gardeners, can work together with my office over the winter months to find new locations for guerrilla gardening, and to develop an action plan to transform Somerset Ward's numerous bulb-outs, boulevards and hard surfaces into vibrant, soft green spaces.


I mentioned about this island in June, in the post Urban Tree Conservation. Its purpose as a traffic-calming measure is to reinforce the signs that prohibit motor traffic from going straight through the intersection, while still allowing cyclists to do so. This discourages commuters from cutting through neighbourhood streets. I posted the following photo with what would be one of many City-provided trees planted in that island that have been subsequently removed by a different City crew:

Here's what used to be there, looking East. You can see there used to be a bit of a bulbout with a stop sign planted in it. The construction pylons outline the location of the new island to be built:

Across the street (actually a few days earlier than the above photo), you can see the initial outlines and pavement cuts for the bulbout on the West side of the intersection:

Looking down O'Connor from Somerset in late October 2007, workers are pouring the cement for the West side bulbout:

And here it is the same night, freshly poured (looking East). Only the West side has been done so far.

Four days later, the freshly-poured island on the East side is installed (looking West). You can see the space on the right for the cyclist through access.

Looking down the left-turn lane, you can see how the two bulbouts make it clear that you're expected to turn left: to continue along MacLaren, you'd have to turn into the one-way traffic on O'Connor! There are many signs to reinforce this. However, the outermost part of the bulbout is nearly flush with the asphalt as an acknowledgement that many people will still attempt this manoeuvre. Interestingly, the exception for bicycles is duct-taped out on the sign on the left, probably a temporary measure until the cyclist access was paved and finished.

Just a couple days later, the asphalt around the island was laid. You can see that the part of the concrete island that is in the crosswalk is flush with the crosswalk. The parking meter nearest the island has been put out of service, and was later removed.

Here's the new intersection in action: a pickup truck is turning right from O'Connor to MacLaren, and a car coming from MacLaren is preparing to turn left onto O'Connor. A couple of pedestrians are standing on the bulbout and taking advantage of the shorter distance to cross it as a result.

Here's a shot from late July 2009, taken with a tripod. You can see the signage has been cleared up, the parking spaces have been removed, and the moon shines in the sky behind. I really like that funky tree on the right. There are also some plants in the island--I believe these are the ones referenced in Councillor Holmes' letter, which some City workers thought were weeds.

There are a lot of details to incorporate into the design of this type of intersection modification. I've mentioned many of them in the example above. But there have been many attempts where--to put it politely--we learned some of the lessons applied at MacLaren/O'Connor. I'll illustrate these in an upcoming post-the evolution of bike cutouts.

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