Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pedestrian Friendly Brantford

An article which caught my attention a few weeks back in the Brantford News. The headline spoke of the need to develop a pedestrian zone along the south side of Colborne Street, as part of the overall transformation of the area. This was from the city's 'walkability taskforce, which one person in the comments noted that committees seem to be one of the few growth industries in Brantford. We seem no end of task forces. Everything is centred along the southside of Colborne. At one time it seemed the idea of tearing it all down and building some brand new structures was a no brainer. One person I know suggested they get the 56th Field Artillery Regiment to bring a few howitzers out and enjoy some fun target practice. It could be a major fundraiser for the city or a number of local charities. Still I digress. Although it might be a lot of fun.

The issue of making a city 'pedestrian' friendly is now a concept which is gaining steam in a number of places. It's the idea of making a city, or a downtown more people rather then car friendly.

One article defines the concept this way:
Pedestrian-friendly streetscaping is the process of recreating
streets and sidewalks as the center of communal
life. At one time, streetscapes were where people
of all ages walked, biked, shopped, ate, played, and
met their neighbors. But today, streets with this kind of
activity are the exception rather than the rule. Towns
and cities are full of barriers that discourage walking or
bicycling as a means of transportation, recreation, commerce
or keeping fit and healthy. The occasional pedestrian
is often made to feel like an alien in a world
made only for cars.

As it stands, downtown Brantford is anything but pedestrian friendly. In fact there's not a whole lot of pedestrian traffic, unless it's near areas such as the University.

It seems to me what needs to be understand why people want to be some place. I think the three things people want to do are:
1) stroll
2) shop and
3) eat.

Any part of a city that allows people to do those things will be considered pedestrian friendly. I believe these three should be asked for anything planned for the downtown. Right now, there are some placess to stroll, such as the area around Harmony Square:

As for the other two, while there are a few restaurants and places to eat and or enjoy a few drinks, they are still not generating the critical mass required. As for shopping, unless you go to Crazy Bill's, hard to say, hard to say. In fact the downtown almost begs you to shop at the mall and to Brantford Commons.

Another article I read, gives this overview of the pedestrian friendly city:
If you go to the best neighborhoods and downtown areas, you’ll find pedestrian friendly streets. If you visit economically depressed downtowns or neighborhoods, you’ll often encounter environments that are hostile to the pedestrian. Pedestrian friendly streets help foster economic growth

The writer also gives this idea for the concept of what can be done:
Pedestrian friendly streets follow one simple rule—the pedestrian is the priority. These streets tend to share the following physical characteristics:
• Pedestrians are effectively separated from moving traffic. Separation is provided through the use of wide sidewalks, onstreet parking, and landscaping.
• Pedestrians can cross the street safely and easily. Intersections are designed to reduce pedestrian crossing distances,crosswalks are clearly marked and aligned with sidewalks, and pedestrian crosswalk signals are automatic not push button.
• The streets are full of life. Storefronts and buildings are continuous and contain many openings that create visual interest and activity. On-street parking is available to support healthy retail and is never replaced by bicycle or travel lanes, or landscaped medians. Well designed paving, street furniture and lighting make the street a place where people want to be.

This last point needs to be the priority, where people want to be, the downtown of Brantford can have a number of fun things which bring people to the downtown, such as the "Find your Spirit", the Jazz Festival and the upcoming Chili Cooking. Certainly all of these are fun and enjoyable and having Harmony Square as the Centre is important, but what can happen that brings people to the streets on a consistent basis and brings that sense of life and celebration that helps with the development of the downtown core.

Just a few thoughts for this day.

No comments: