Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hickory Street Ped-Cyclist Bridge

The City is conducting an environmental assessment towards building a new pedestrian & cyclist bridge over the OTrain cut at Hickory Street. This will greatly improve access to the OTrain station at Carling, facilitate access from the east side to the Preston mainstreet, and help sell condos along Champagne. To this end, the developers are contributing a significant chunk of the money for the bridge. Here is the DCA letter to the city study team on the location and design of the bridge:

Hickory Street Crossing

The Dalhousie Community Association supports the prompt construction of ped-cyclist crossing of the OTrain cut in the vicinity of Hickory Street.

Alignment: the Hickory – Adeline Street alignment is our preferred option. It is the most useful location for recreational, commuting, and other uses.

We want to note that in addition to the north-south MUP on the east side of the OTrain cut, another one is proposed on the west side of the cut. The proposed developments at 125 Hickory and 101 Champagne both are providing segments of the western MUP as part of their site plans; and the Bayview-carling CDP is incorporating a western side MUP into its plans.

Related projects: We also feel there is still a great deal of merit in extending the park at Beech/Champagne over the OTrain cut, given the high cost of acquiring additional parkland in inner-city neighborhoods. While decking is expensive, other options seem even more expensive. This option should not be discarded just because the space is not used for the east-west ped-cyclist crossing of the OTrain in this EA.

We also feel strongly that a great deal more consideration needs to be given to reallocating the Champagne road allowance north of 101 Champagne into additional park area, with appropriate emergency vehicle access. This will also reduce the infiltration of vehicles north of the intensification target zone.

Carling overpass: while we feel that the EA option of widening the existing Carling overpass over the OTrain cut to improve ped-cyclist access, is not as meritorious as the Hickory-Adeline crossing, we are not suggesting that the widening of the Carling overpass be forgotten. The sidewalk width here is minimal, and cyclists on Carling feel squeezed. The addition of a cycling lane and wider sidewalk would be fully in accord with the city’s policies toward encouraging active transportation and transit usage. The wider space would be well used given the plethora of new high rises proposed on each side of the OTrain cut.

Given that the developers of Soho Champagne and Domicile are contributing funds towards the Hickory ped-cyclist bridge, there may well be sufficient monies from these developments plus the Soho Italia and Dow Honda projects to pay for BOTH the new bridge and widening the Carling bridge.

We also note that a half light is required where the MUP meets Carling Avenue. The City has approved this light conceptually, but not funded it. Again, this is an appropriate related use for the developer funds from adjacent projects. It may be most convenient to roll all three closely related projects into one contract.

Design Criteria for the new ped-cyclist bridge: given the short bridge length, and the need for side railings in any case, and the intention to landscape with shrubs along the east and west side MUPs, we see no significant benefit in a “enhanced bridge” design over a “standard bridge”. Standard truss bridge designs are used on other sections of the bike and pedestrian network with satisfactory function and acceptable aesthetic results.

We do however have concern about the recommended width of the bridge. A 3m width is barely enough for two cyclists to pass. The close spaces makes it uncomfortable for a pedestrian passing a cyclist. The Hickory bridge should generate a significant pedestrian and cyclist volume, given its proximity to a major transit station, many high rises, and connecting two major employment and residential areas, and linking two MUPs. Therefore we strongly recommend that a wider bridge be considered. This is economically feasible given the developer contributions and acceptability of a standard bridge design rather than a “enchanced” more expensive design. In short, we prefer a wider standard bridge over a narrower enhanced bridge. It might also be useful to consider half the width being a raised sidewalk and half a cycle track.

Railings: other truss bridges in the city are painted a rust-red or are finished with a rusty-red surface. This is acceptable. Otherwise, a black railing, bright red, or silver metal finish is acceptable.

We notice that the Young Street bridge has an overhead wire mesh to prevent objects from being thrown onto the tracks below. We notice that the Beech Street ped overpass also has high mesh fences to prevent throwing objects. The provision of safety fences should be designed at the same time as the bridge, rather than as an add-on, so they look decent.

Connection to Hickory Street and Adeline: the EA handouts do not address the intersection of the bridge traffic with the MUP’s on each side of the OTrain cut nor the east-west traffic proceeding to Hickory or Adeline Streets. Given the very poor connectivity of the Young Street overpass (lack of curb cuts, in particular) we strongly recommend that the appropriate connections be designed for pedestrians, and for cyclists, and circulated for comment, so as to ensure that both groups separate design and functional criteria are met. The last thing we want is a bridge that contributes to conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists.

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