Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Designing for able-bodied people who drive has no place in Downtown Langley

I am not a fan of drive thrus or parking lots that front streets. Surface parking lots that surround buildings do many things such as spreading out buildings, and increasing the time it takes to walk from one place to another. They also create boring, hostile environments for walking. The end result being the degradation of the public realm, and the erosion of walkability. Walking and walkability includes getting around with personal mobility devices.

Besides encouraging idling and creating an ugly public realm, drive thrus send the signal that an area should be accessed by driving only.

Downtown Langley is a great places to live and visit because it is walkable, safe, and built at a human scale. One of the keys to the future success of Downtown Langley is the continued creation of a inviting, walkable public realm.

Having a new Tim Hortons at the corner of 203rd Street and Douglas Crescent is better than an empty lot. Many people have told me this. So what if it isn’t as walkable as it could be? So what if it includes a drive thru, highway-scale sign, and a parking that fronts Douglas Crescent?

While one parking lot and one drive thru won’t destroy the public realm and walkability of Downtown Langley, two, three, ten projects over the period of a decade will. This is why it is important that every development project in Downtown Langley be evaluated on how it will contribute to creating a walkable, vibrant public realm. By the way, there are simple ways to enhance walkability while still including surface parking.

On the topic of surface parking and that Tim Hortons, even its parking lot is not designed well. Normally, accessible parking is placed as close to a business as possible. At this Tim Hortons, the accessible parking is on the other side of the parking lot.

Accessibly parking is located across the parking lot from the store's entrance. Select the image to enlarge.

To make matters worse, the ramp that provides access to the Tim Hortons can become blocked.

Large vehicles can block the ramp between the parking lots and the entrance to the store. Select the image to enlarge.

The design of the Tim Hortons says that it is for able-bodied people who can drive. Downtown Langley is a place for people of all ages and all abilities; a place where you should feel safe walking, cycling, and scootering. This is why I take issue with the design of projects like this Tim Hortons.


Dave Hall said...

In no particular order - The absence of a drive-through would probably have meant that Tim Hortons would not have gone forward, the drive through probably brings considerable extra business and this means that Tim Hortons is an occupied site in contrast to the many failed or vacant walk-in coffee shops in the Downtown core,Tim Hortons is a street friendly enterprise and the outdoor patio has been a resoundingly busy place all summer,while your observation of cross parking lot location of the HC parking slot is interesting, your photo #2 is somewhat inaccurate as even a scooter would appear from the photo to have adequate access room, and every citizen has opportunity to raise concerns at either the public APC meeting that reviews all development proposals or the public Council meeting at which these proposals are approved/disapproved and often go to a "public hearing"
if they involve significant zoning change or variance requirements.You might consider attending/commenting prior rather than post development criticism.

Nathan Pachal said...

Sadly, when proposals hit council and public hearing, they are pretty much a done deal. We need council to understand the importance of embedding walkablity into all proposed projects.