Monday, August 31, 2015

The Case of the Ever Shrinking Sidewalk in the City of Langley

It is also important that the placement of features such as bus stop amenities, garbage cans, bicycle racks, and planters does not reduce sidewalk clear width to maintain accessibility. – City of Langley Master Transportation Plan

The City of Langley has been replacing the street lights around Downtown Langley over the past few years. These new street lights are a marked improvement over the various previous styles of lighting. The City of Langley is even adding new street lights in some parts of Downtown Langley.

These changes are all part of the Downtown Langley Master Plan. Of course, the Downtown Langley Master Plan and the Master Transportation Plan have clear language around enhancing the walkability of Downtown Langley. This includes having comfortable sidewalks.

City of Langley Council signed off on its Master Transportation Plan about a year ago. The plan states that “wider sidewalks (greater than 1.5m) should be concentrated in Downtown, around schools and multi-family areas where more people are and can be attracted to walking.” The plan also spells out that wider sidewalks are needed in Downtown Langley in table 3.1.

With this in mind, I was a bit shocked to see that the City of Langley was actually shrinking the sidewalk width on the north side of Fraser Highway between 208th Street and 207th Street.

New street lights are being install along Fraser Highway. Notice that the sidewalk is barely the width of one person.

The City built small sidewalk extensions into adjacent property, but even with these extensions, it is still under the 1.5 meter minimum standard. The extensions will make for tricky navigation for people using a mobility aid.

The interesting thing is that between the Langley Bypass and 208th Street, the City of Langley installed these new lights without compromising the width of the clear area of the sidewalk.

Section of sidewalk between 208th Street and the Langley Bypass. The street lights do not encroach into the sidewalk.

Besides installing the lights right next to the sidewalk, the City could move the lights and utility poles into the street. This could be done by creating a pervious strip between the road and the sidewalk. This can be done without requiring the costly relocation of the drainage system. This would greatly enhance the public realm.

Example of a pervious green strip from the NACTO Urban Street Design Guide. This could be design to accommodate street lighting and utility poles.

When I see things like the installation of lighting in the middle of the sidewalk, I have to wonder if walkability is truly a concept that is understood at City Hall.

1 comment:

Dave Hall said...

It's hard to keep up with your blog-a-day pace!! O.K., so you've observed a flaw in sidewalk planning and construction but this is after the fact. I don't disagree with your observation, but how are you going to make any headway in terms of changed future practice? I tried to have a Transportation Advisory Committee formed and received zero support from mayor and Council so the present circumstance sees staff simply implement work without any kind of Council oversight or input. The adoption of the "public realm" guidelines are a very general go-ahead by Council but there is no present indication that this elected body with a four year mandate has any real intent to "direct" staff in a more concrete manner. So you need to consider how you might change this present attitude on the part of your elected representatives or how you might change this dynamic in 3 and 1/2 years in your run at public office.