Friday, March 23, 2012

Somerset Street Reconstruction Part 7: Trees & bike racks

We've had some very summer-like weather the last few days, and the bike counter on the Laurier segregated bike lane registered 1519 cyclists on Wednesday, 2/3 of the highest daily number ever counted at that location!

That makes a good opportunity to talk about the trees and bike racks in this installment of the 15-part series on the reconstruction of Somerset Street West. Previously, in part 6 the subject was poles and signals.

Ging Sing Chinese restaurantIn the seventeen meetings of the design committee, great persistence by the community representatives and creative thinking all around enabled many more trees to be fit into the design. A particular challenge was getting trees on the viaduct/bridges by the City Centre building, because the drainage patterns make a challenging environment for trees' chance of survival. The solution is described in the next post in the series, part 8*, but this preliminary diagram gives an idea of how many more new trees (the dark green circles) will be added to join the old ones (lighter green circles):

In the Chinatown segment, there were already many trees that had miraculously survived the hostile conditions they were planted in. They didn't have large tree vaults, nor structural soil, nor any of the other modern conveniences enjoyed by trees planted today.

The majority of trees that didn't have to come out were protected with boards surrounding them. Perhaps this is not as extensive or intimidating as the tree protection zones used in Toronto, but it at leasts provide a buffer if a careless machine operator hits the tree despite the penalties.

Trees were added to both sides of Somerset wherever there was room for one. Here two were added to the sidewalk at Somerset and Preston, which was widened as part of the philosophy of turning a four-lane road with bulbouts to a two-lane road with parking bays (previously mentioned in part 1; the widening of this section was described in part 2 of the series).

The metal pieces leaning against the lamppost here will be used to hold the square shape of the opening in the sidewalk pavers. Even with the sidewalk still as gravel, the bike rack is being used!

Since the block of Somerset west of Preston is part of the Little Italy/Preston Street BIA, it gets the Preston Street treatment, which includes these decorative tree guards and silver bollards.

They also get the Preston Street benches. Bollards on either side of the trees protect them from various threats, such as vehicles parking on the sidewalk.

Many of these bollards are adjacent to laneways or other obstacles, but when they aren't, they are substituted with a bike rack. I first heard of this in the reconstruction of Westboro.

The bike racks used on Preston Street had metal plates that were screwed into the poured concrete sidewalk. You can't do that with pavers, so on Somerset they are embedded into the ground.

Unfortunately, it looks like someone forgot to compensate for the height difference of embedding these below the surface; these racks are too low to support a bike (the bike's top tube will just flop over the top of the post). I've been assured that the contractor will fix this in 2012.

The Preston Street racks bolted to the ground aren't really that secure, and just a couple years after the Preston Street reconstruction, both of the post-and-ring racks installed outside Pubwell's have broken off.

Much more secure are the ones installed on the Hintonburg end of this construction project, which look a lot like the ones originally installed in Westboro. The posts are 3" thick and the rings are welded on. The ones in Westboro were filled with concrete, though I haven't checked if these are. Either way, they aren't going anywhere. It's true, most Takaki Automotive customers probably don't arrive by bike, but bollards nearly identical to these would have been installed anyway, so the bike racks come at a negligible cost for what may prove useful in the future as the neighbourhood changes.

Further on the cycling front, sharrows will be used along the corridor. The ones below were installed on the other side of Booth Street to connect up with the Laurier segregated bike lane project.

The project engineers did an exhaustive analysis of every conceivable way to include segregated bicycle lanes on this stretch of Somerset, and everyone agreed with the conclusion that the roadway wasn't wide enough. Adding bike lanes would be at the expense of parking, trees, and wider sidewalks. This wasn't a tradeoff anyone was willing to make.

Once we had agreed on sharrows, it was still a fight to get the engineers to get their heads out of their technical books and put sharrows in more frequnetly than 100m apart. The board displayed at the public open house says 75m, but I think they will occur more often than that (though still much more sparingly than in Montreal)

Reading that board again, I had a chuckle at the reference to this use of sharrows as a "pilot project". They've already been used on Lyon street, on Arlington (poorly), and on Scott Street, east of the road diet.

Next time, in parts 8* and 9* of the 15-part series, we'll look at the sidewalks on the viaduct/bridge, and answer the question of how they plan to get trees to survive atop a structure that is designed to drain water away.

*Links won't work until post goes up


  1. Any idea if the sharrows are going to continue along Wellington West at all? Or will they end at Somerset Square?

  2. I don't know, but I've heard some Hintonburg Community Association folks mention the idea a few times.