Saturday, December 9, 2006

Best v. Good

The pending improvement up the street put me in mind of Voltaire's now-hoary saw: The best is the enemy of the good.

I'm under no delusion why we're getting our intersection redesigned when other equally (or more) deserving improvements go undone: money. We've got it, in the form of traffic mitigation funds set up as a condition of approval for nearby development.

It's going to cost a lot to put in new curbs, dig up the street, change the sidewalk configuration, move a storm drain, put in dirt, plant grass, &c. Cost is one of the reasons that the city isn't throwing up pedestrian-friendly changes all over town. One reason.

But, does cost have to be such a big factor?

I'm guessing that we'd get the same effect on traffic with some concrete parking curbs bolted into the pavement where the new curb line is going to go. (And, we wouldn't have to wait until spring.) If concrete curbs wouldn't be as obvious to traffic, add some signs. At something like $20-50 for a six-foot length of six-inch high concrete curb, you could do our proposed curb line for probably 10% of what our project is going to cost.

Undoubtedly, it would not look as attractive. But, what is our priority. Safety or beauty? Fortunately, because we have the money, we don't have to choose.

But, at other locations where private funding is not available, maybe concrete curbing makes sense.

Take, for instance, Langley Street, where it meets Centre Street. The west end of Langley is a sea of asphalt that should be redesigned and rebuilt to give most of the area back to pedestrians. I bet it will be no small dollar project to rebuild the curb line, build new sidewalks, dig up asphalt, put in dirt, plant grass, etc.

So don't. At least for now.

Spend a couple of days hammering concrete curbs into the pavement and putting up signs to create a safe zone for pedestrians. Later, when the money for a more permanent change is available, do it up nice.

The city could take the same approach all over town and create lots of curb extensions quickly.

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