Better urban design could add years to your life

That’s the title of this CBC story, and here’s a snippet of it:

Dr. Karen Lee says, “If we design walkable neighbourhoods, more people will walk. We know that if we have good, safe bicycling infrastructure, then more people will cycle, including people of different ages and women. Just 15 minutes of cycling to work and back home per day will burn 10 pounds per year.”

Small amounts of exercise done daily can reduce our rising epidemics of obesity and diabetes, which together are no small cost to taxpayers.

The prescription, says Dr. Lee, is efficient transit that encourages people to walk to the bus and then to the office from their stop. It’s better design of stairs that welcome users, as well as signs near elevators that encourage you to use the stairs.

Instead of the Wellington Street Extension, let’s build bike paths and invest in more express bus routes.

— Laura Murray

Mapping Alternatives

On the really useful and cool city site Snapshot Kingston, you can look at any neighbourhood through the years via maps and aerial photos. One thing historical photos can illuminate is the question of ways to provide road access to the tannery lands. It has been suggested by some that the Wellington Extension is necessary to “unlock” those lands for development. But look at this photo from 1978:

To orient you, Montreal Street is running up the left. Rideau runs up beside the old Hanley Spur railroad line in the right half of the photo. The tannery is in the upper right quadrant. The Bailey Broom Factory is the L shaped building near the lower right corner.

What you can also see is Russell Street, which looks like a dirt road here, running left to right (west to east) about 1/3 down from the top, and then curving down to meet Rideau. And you can see River Street coming in from the east just above the oil drums, and going over the train tracks via a bridge to Rideau Street.

Here’s a shot from 2013: Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 2.14.26 PMSee how Russell and River Streets no longer go through? In the case of River, the bridge was taken down at some point, and the road was not made to go through when the tracks were removed. One nice effect of the incomplete road is that you can ride your bike up along the old tracks unimpeded. But it might be a good idea to bring River Street out to Rideau. As Hank Doornekamp has pointed out, the Woollen Mill (very right lower corner) has only one ingress and egress — Cataraqui Street — which is even perhaps a safety issue. Continuing Russell eastward on the grid might also help distribute traffic around. It seems to me that if one were to imagine the tannery development in a green sustainable framework, putting a cycling trail on the old railway spur and good bus service, and connecting these roads, one might go a long way to meeting transportation needs in a 21st century sort of way. There might be a real demand for housing close to downtown and linked via greenways to both the golf course and parks to the south. What do others think?

— Laura Murray with thanks to Mary Farrar and Anne Lougheed for info

Don’t Sacrifice Waterfront to the Car

Re: “A road can fit through Doug Fluhrer Park,” Letters to the Editor, Jan. 19.

Yes, a road can fit through the park and so could a tilt-a-whirl and go-kart track. But is this what Kingston downtown wants? Geroge Dillon has presented a studied argument for the roadway, but he misses some critical and very simple points. The proposed Wellington Street extension would pretty well ruin Doug Fluhrer Park, making it smaller, noisier, less appealing and less accessible. And why surrender a beautiful downtown section of waterfront green space to the automobile when it is probably not necessary?

A convincing and current argument for the roadway has not been made. Cities in the past that made the mistake of sacrificing green space and waterfront to the car very often regret it and spend years trying to undo the damage. City council has the opportunity to undo a planning error that present and succeeding Kingston generations will thank them for.

— Don Campbell, Kingston Whig-Standard, January 24, 2015

Why Would We Turn a Park into a Road?

The Whig has recently seen debate over the WSE:

George Dillon is excited that a road actually can fit through Fluhrer Park.

Laura Murray is not.

Here are a couple of key paragraphs from her Op-Ed:

First, let me agree: a road can fit through this area. We showed that in October by measuring the 26-metre right-of-way and marking it with pylons. At one point, 26 metres takes you right to water’s edge, but it fits. The real question is: why would we want a road there?

In our presentation to the Environment, Infrastructure and Transportation Policies committee, and in all of our information, WellingtonX (distinct from Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour) bases its resistance to the road on the 2006 Environmental Study Report, approved by city council in 2008. We have been advised by city staff that this report must govern the nature of the project until and unless the city chooses to have a new report done. This report projects a 50 km/h road, designed for 70 km/h. It certainly does not rule out a road that would take up the whole road allowance of 26 metres, and our position is that a road that wide and that fast would entirely destroy the park and access to the water. It would also contravene the Official Plan (with its requirement for a 30-metre “ribbon of life” along waterfronts), the Sustainable Kingston Plan, and the Provincial Policy Statement 2014 that now governs the environmental aspects of infrastructure projects.

Breakwater Park No Paradise

DSCN3430It drives me nuts when I hear that a commuter road through Doug Fluhrer Park would not negatively impact that green space as much as we think: why, just look at Breakwater Park, people say! It’s so lovely!

Lots of people enjoy Breakwater Park, that narrow stretch of parkland that hugs the lake south of Queen’s University and KGH, despite the traffic that hurtles along King Street at high speed. It’s a nice park, but given the challenges of access, hardly one which should be held up as an example worth copying.

During my first three years of motherhood I lived in an apartment on Beverley Street, which runs between Union and King just west of Queen’s campus. The south end of Beverley is opposite the westernmost edge of Breakwater Park, and there were no pedestrian crossings. Most days I would take a dog and a baby (and later the dog, a toddler and a baby) to the park. Sometimes we remained in the park and other times we used the waterfront pathway to get downtown. It was an atypical day if we were able to cross King Street without waiting ages for a break in traffic — and then we would run as fast as we could across the road. There’s a good stretch of King between traffic lights where cars can pick up speed. The proximity of the busy road to the park meant that should my toddler make a break for it, or my dog escape his leash, neither would have had much chance of survival had he run in the wrong direction.

The design for Douglas Fluhrer Park approved by City Council in 2014 shows that pedestrians using the park would cross Wellington Street with traffic lights at Bay or at Cataraqui, or use a “potential courtesy crossing” from the bottom of North Street. Like Breakwater then, the safest access for pedestrians would be at the park’s end (King Street can be crossed with the traffic light at the foot of Barrie Street), even though many residents would prefer to take their chances and enter the park at a more convenient point. The Wellington Street Extension as planned would have a posted speed of 50 km/hr and a design speed of 70 km/hr.

So yes, in some undesirable ways Fluhrer Park would be like Breakwater Park. Without the road, however, Fluhrer Park can continue to attract joggers, picnickers, dog-walkers, and wildlife-watchers, and emulate what is best about Breakwater Park: namely, its waterfront access.

— Anne Lougheed

Community Meeting February 2

Join Wellington X for another community conversation about our opposition to the Wellington St Extension. We will provide brief updates regarding our efforts at engaging City Council, followed by smaller group discussions regarding topics such as: engaging City Hall, broader community outreach, Doug Fluhrer Park, and more. Suggested topics are welcome!

The Box, H’art School, 237 Wellington St

7 – 9 p.m.

Presentation to City Committee

Tonight Mary Farrar accompanied by Sayyida, Anne, and Laura appeared as a delegation before the Environment, Infrastructure, and Transportation Policies Committee of Council. We only had five minutes to communicate our views on the WSE, but Mary sure packed a lot in! What she didn’t have time to say, she left for them as a handout. The focus was on countering certain prevalent arguments for the road. One of them is, we don’t have enough north/south arterials. Mary pointed out that Kingston has six exits off the 401 coming south into town, the same number as London which has twice the population. Another argument we commonly hear is that we shouldn’t “exaggerate” the width of the road, because “nobody is planning to use the whole road allowance” (that is, 26 metres), and that current thinking is to make it a slower smaller road. We pointed out that city staff have said that any major modification to the way the road is envisioned in the 2006 Environmental Study Report would require a whole new report. So it is only reasonable that we go by that report, not whatever more moderated rumours are in the air.

After the meeting, Station 14 was standing by for an interview, so stay tuned for that.

— Laura Murray