City of Ottawa staff acknowledge that a section of West Ridge Drive isn’t up to current pedestrian safety standards, but there are no plans to fix it.
Most of West Ridge has sidewalks on both sides of the road, but one section that doesn’t is a stretch of about 160 metres on the west side between Sable Run Drive and Steggall Crescent. That sidewalk-free stretch is also home neighbourhood’s community mailbox.
That’s a concern for West Ridge resident Roger Chagnon (pictured at top), who says the mailbox is inaccessible to pedestrians in the winter, unless you’re willing to climb through a snowbank.
“They’re trying to encourage people to walk if they can, this is an obvious obstacle, a bit ridiculous,” says Chagnon.
To get to the mailbox, residents on Sable Run or Steggall would need to cross West Ridge a total of four times. He says most people drive to the mailbox in the winter, because it’s far safer than walking to it.
Besides Stittsville Main Street, West Ridge is the only east-west street connecting Hazeldean and Fernbank, and it’s also an OC Transpo bus route. That makes for a lot of traffic, especially during rush hour.
When StittsvilleCentral.ca visited the site earlier this month on a Saturday afternoon, there were snowshoe tracks all along that side of the road. There was a moderate volume of cars, enough to make it difficult for anyone with mobility issues to cross the road safely.
The mailbox is also located on a curve in the road which limits visibility of cars coming from the north. There’s no signage indicating that pedestrians might be crossing, other than a “children playing” sign roughly across the street from the boxes (rather than before the crossing area).
“I pick up my grandkids on West Ridge at 3:00pm every school day. There’s quite a bit of traffic there, and of course with OC Transpo buses, it makes for quite a bit of traffic,” he says.
Chagnon says it’s not a big a deal in the summer, because residents have forged a temporary path across the grass.
“Summertime it doesn’t matter that much unless you’re in a wheelchair or use a walker. There’s a pathway there – you can’t prevent people from walking – so people have made their own path,” he says.
Changon wrote to city councillor Shad Qadri about his concerns, and received a response back from Gill Wilson in the City’s transportation planning branch.
Wilson wrote that West Ridge is a collector road, and if it was built today would need to have sidewalks on both sides for the entire length of the road. The standards were different years ago when it was built in the former municipality of Goulbourn Township. The City’s policy is to fix these gaps when roads are reconstructed. There’s also a “modestly funded program” that the City can use to improve walking conditions in priority locations.
“The priority is on missing facilities on high-speed, high-volume routes that lead directly to transit stops and schools in support of the City’s transportation objective to promote walking for daily commuting and local trips,” wrote Wilson. “Road safety characteristics relative to road speed, traffic volumes, sightlines, barriers and pedestrian route desire were also considered in the prioritization process.”
The city approved some of these priority projects as part of a three-phase lasting until 2031, but the West Ridge sidewalks are not on that list. That plan will be reviewed again in 2018.
We also asked Canada Post if they could do anything about Chagnon’s concerns. Anick Losier, director of media relations, emailed this response:
“At Canada Post, we take the responsibility to keep community mailbox sites clear and accessible during the winter very seriously. We have dedicated local teams in each community with clear instructions on how to clear snow and ensure the area around the box is safe for customers and our employees who have to access the box.
As you can see in the photo, we clear the layby right up to the front of the box. Our equipment was installed based on the urban layout and in collaboration with the municipality/developers at the time.
If a box location is not properly cleared, sanded or salted, we ask our customers to call customer service so that we can quickly respond. Our employees do the same. We also have an accommodation program if anyone with a disability or mobility issue faces challenges accessing their box.”
In the meantime, Chagnon has asked to the city to clear the path with a snowblower.
Barring that, Chagnon has suggested a community “Stomp the Path” event.
“Residents would be invited to walk up and down the path to compact the snow and make it more pedestrian friendly. Perhaps some organization would donate hot chocolate and Tim Bits. Let’s have fun while affirming our commitment to bettering our community,” he says.
Chagnon is a member of a local walking group and has a few other sore spots when it comes to sidewalks. Another nearby concern is the lack of sidewalk along Hazeldean Road between West Ridge and Carp Road.