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Planning is politics, politics is planning: grid road system, cycling facilities, future planning and profit motive

Over the last decade  several new subdivisions have been  constructed in Cambridge. A new project is currently being implemented that will eventually be home to about 12000 citizens.  In  every case, the new neighbourhood road systems are non-grid in design. Each neighbourhood has what I would describe as a  meandering/winding road pattern that eventually  connects to one or more "collector arterial" streets that then allow motorists to exit onto major city roads. Each new neighbourhood is thus provided with one or two arterial collector routes to funnel the traffic to and from the relatively unconnected internal roads. And as one would expect from their designated purpose, the arterial collector roads are designed to be 4 lanes wide - wide enough to collect and funnel large numbers of vehicles.

In summary then, to exit a subdivision, every motorist, cyclist and pedestrian must  first access one of the main arterial roads which routes traffic in and out of the neighbourhood. And to repeat, there are usually 1 to 3  such arterial roads in each new housing project. 

Consequences:
[a] Soon after moving into their new homes on the arterial roads, home owners approach Council to demand that STOP signs to slow down traffic. Residents express concern about the heavy and often speeding vehicular traffic Eventually, each collector road is festooned with numerous STOP signs. Of course, these numerous stops also function to slow down the flow of traffic. You would almost think that 'developers' would tell prospective home owners about this negative feature of living on an arterial collector. Of course, Council could save meeting time and simply install the signs because in the long run they will anyway. Or a grid system of roads could be mandated?

[b] But there is another aspect of this roads pattern and lack of a grid system that relates specifically to walking and cycling. For example, in the new northeast Cambridge neighbourhoods, Townline Road is the only main road that links the collecter arterials. So, if you start walking or cycling in one specific neighbourhood, you will likely travel from one arterial to another via Townline Road to reach another section of the development. But no cycling or pedestrian facilities were ever constructed on Townline Road as part of subdivision development. In the obvious search for profit, the developers successfully asked Cambridge Councillors to remove the original sidewalks .... their wish was granted..

Despite the fact that the conditions of draft approval for plans of subdivisions  included a Townline Road sidewalk/trailway, it was removed at the request of the developers. In 1996 one developer's consultant "stated this partial sidewalk link would not be helpful to the community as the internal sidewalk system is adequate. Mr.  ------- requested that the Committee delete this (sidewalk) recommendation and suggested a bike path would make more sense." Later in 1997 another developer's consultant "brought up the issue of safety to residents as the proposed sidewalk would be located outside of the subdivision without proper lighting, and isolated with a tall fence separating it from nearby homes.  Mr. ------- also stated that a bikeway would not be used extensively as it would be located on the edge of the city." In both cases, the developers cited capital costs in their arguments. Cambridge Council voted to support of the developer's request. The developer also seriously erred in their prediction of cycling patterns.

 
  here we have the Jamieson Pkwy sidewalk to nowhere                              the berm along Townline Rd. now planted with trees - below electric lines?

Thus, today in 2006 there is neither a sidewalk nor bikeway to serve the recreational and alternative transportation needs of the subdivision along Townline Road. But if you look closely you will see the remnants of an earthen berm that was to have served as the trailway. Also trees have been planted along the berm .... directly under electric transmission wires .. thus requiring constant pruning. And cycling is one of the fastest growing activities among residents of all ages. And in north-east Cambridge, Townline Road links all subdivisions with each other and the other parts of Cambridge.

For additional information about the failure of Cambridge Council to support the construction of sidewalks, refer to the Franklin Blvd. issue.
Franklin Blvd. involves access via a bridge over highway 401, with no access  sidewalks and no protected bridge walkway. Deaths have occurred.
 As of 2010, Cambridge Council voted to delay any improvement to the lack of sidewalk access over the 401 bridge for probably another 6 years ..... after delaying any decision for 4 years. Remember, politics is planning, planning is politics.

 

 

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