19 Oct Northeast False Creek Workshop Response
DVA has consistently advocated meaningful streetscape connectivity as a primary element of any urban design proposition. Streets need consideration as activity and lingering places in addition to being passages that one traverses.
We support the City’s aspiration for the new NEFC Streets to be “Great Streets”. In participating in the City’s Workshop of September 29, our presumption is that vehicular connectivity has been addressed in prior processes, and this has determined the overall road geometry, numbers of lanes, turning, provision of bike lanes etc. From that day’s workshop process, we advocate 4 points in furthering the design principles for these streets.
1.) MID CROSSING PEDESTRIAN REFUGE:
A general overall observation was that the R.O.W geometry may not be wide enough at some key intersections. The street design needs to respond to the increasing realities of aging / disability challenges, and to “tardy texting pedestrians”.
A liberal provision of median refuge areas is needed, giving people the comfortable choice to cross a half street at a time (e.g. four lanes of an eight lane intersection). For those whose tardiness leaves them insufficient time to complete the street crossing, this refuge area will also encourage them to pause until the next pedestrian light cycle, lessening the impediment to traffic flow and improving overall network safety.
2.) TEMPORAL ADAPTABILITY:
The DVA supports the idea of ‘temporal adaptability’. This builds upon the fact that for special events some lanes are closed etc. This should be expanded to enable flexible programming of the streets lands for different seasons and times of day for a variety of the lane segments throughout NEFC.
3.) MALLEABLE BIKE LANES:
The Achilles heel, and greatest impediment to Great Streets, is not so much vehicular traffic (which can be time restricted from any driving / parking lane), but the ironic Inflexibility of fixed cycling paths. This is particularly so where bike-lanes are the buffer between street parking and the other usable open space of the sidewalk realm. Bikes a Great Street do not make (neither parked nor mobile). They are a great adjunct to dynamic pedestrian environments, but only when the cyclists dismount and tuck them away somewhere from places of congregation.
This logic became apparent in discussion advocating a clear demarcation in texture/ treatment for the bike zone that was currently illustrated as similar to the sidewalk and distinct from the road. It will be important from time to time, with the plethora of people gathering events planned for this area, for the bike lanes to be surrendered to pedestrian use.
4.) EVENT PLACEMAKING AESTHETIC:
There has been a binary expectation for ‘permanent’ or ‘ephemeral’ streetscape design intervention. A High Design aesthetic for fixed elements for benches, lights, garbage etc, and a Thrift Store aesthetic of traffic cones and saw horses, either for safety in utility construction or to celebrate a charity run-a-thon. A Great Street also needs a noble event placemaking aesthetic and language of artifacts for life’s moveable feasts. These aren’t framed as day-glo hazard mitigations, but are more akin to the crafted leaves that extend a dining table to fill the room for celebration of Thanksgiving Dinner.
Graham McGarva, Past President