The photo above should be studied by city planners and infrastructure builders around the world. And the lesson should be, this is the worst possible way to build an intersection.
Every one of the signs in the photo, including the two cattle gates, are an admission of planning failure.
“Yield to pedestrians because we’ve created a terrible intersection where pedestrians are expected to wait to cross Lake Shore Boulevard in the same area where through traffic from the path is expected to proceed.”
“Watch for turning vehicles because we haven’t planned to properly handle conflicts that arise from turning cars and trucks and we’d never make them actually stop because that impedes traffic flow.”
And then there’s the cattle gates. A sign states that no unauthorized vehicles are permitted on the trail so these may be to keep pushy, lazy drivers from taking a shortcut on the mixed-use trail. But they also work as the last line of protecting-our-ass infrastructure because who ever designed this intersection was unable to learn from 100 years of street design and handle pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers and motorized vehicles.
All of this may not be instantly obvious, so let’s have a look at what trail users are expected to do upon approaching this intersection:
1) Yield to pedestrians – If you’re on your feet you simply stay right as the path narrows, watch out for other people and act like you do on any sidewalk. As a cyclist you must avoid a) the cattle gates, b) watch for oncoming pedestrians, cyclists, rollerbladers, whatevers and also c) watch for pedestrians approaching from your right who have just parked their cars and plan to cross Lake Shore Boulevard to access the CNE grounds.
2) Watch for turning vehicles – While watching for pedestrians, avoiding the cattle gates and preparing to cross the intersection you must also shoulder check to your left to watch that vehicles turning from Lake Shore into the parking lot both see you and are prepared to stop. While you’re at it, also shoulder check to your left even further to make sure that whoever is behind you is prepared to slow down while you navigate the cattle gates and isn’t about to overtake you. And once you make it into the intersection you have to watch again for turning vehicles exiting the parking lot because a right turn on red is legal in Ontario and while stopping in a crosswalk is illegal, the legal turn often requires the illegal stop and when’s the last time you saw someone ticketed for stopping in a crosswalk?
3) Watch for and obey the pedestrian and bicycle lights – While looking to your left, right and rear you must also be aware not only of the cattle gates in front of you but also of the bicycle traffic lights where green means “Go” but doesn’t mean “Go because turning traffic from Lake Shore isn’t going to just pop-up in front of you.”
Are you exhausted yet? Is this how anyone should be expected to handle an intersection? Yes, we must approach all crossings with caution and be aware of our surroundings but why would someone intentionally create any intersection where the possibility of a collision is actually increased by the infrastructure?
While trail user heads are bobbing and twisting to stay aware of every possible conflict point, what are drivers expected to do? A medium-sized yellow sign instructs drivers to yield to pedestrians and cyclists. Excellent. Yield is a specific command that means proceed only when clear. Wait, aren’t we missing a step? How are drivers going to know that there isn’t anyone approaching if they do not stop? The lights controlling motorized traffic do nothing to ensure that drivers stop and properly yield here. Solid green, yellow, and red are the only lights you’ll see. Green means “Go,” so who’s going to read that yellow sign? Red means “Stop and proceed right when clear,” but when is the last time you actually saw a driver stop at a red light before a right turn?
I’m not a city planner and yet I can identify that this intersection above is an absolute mess. An absolute mess built in just the past few years. This isn’t old infrasture, everything is new.
Did the planners here not know about traffic lights that can be used to control right turning traffic? Did the planners not see that pedestrians waiting to cross Lake Shore would be standing directly in the path of oncoming trail traffic? And why does pedestrian and bicycle traffic split while crossing the parking entrance forcing awkward merging that in my experience no one does.
If Team Ford is so gung-ho on building off-road trails and if this is the example they’ll be following then I’d rather ride my bicycle on a 400 series highway. At least there everyone will be going the same direction.