Ottawa drivers running (make that parking) wild in our pedestrian zones
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Recently, someone asked me if I thought motorists would drive through parks, over lawns and on sidewalks if there were no dedicated space for cars (as cyclists do, at times). At the time, I didn’t know what to say. Since cars need flat surfaces and a lot of room, it was hard to imagine. There just isn’t room on a sidewalk for a car.
But the recent concerns over parking at the new Lansdowne Park has brought that question back to mind.
The area was conceived as a pedestrian zone, where people could gather on large, cobblestone boulevards and squares flanked by shops. But almost immediately after opening, confusion set in about just where cars were allowed.
The cars might not be driving over lawns and through parks, but they are certainly parking pretty much anywhere that isn’t barricaded. And the city seems oddly reluctant to tell them to stop.
Although the whole of Lansdowne is meant to be a “pedestrian priority” zone, cars are allowed to drive on the two streets off Bank Street, and park for a limited time with metered parking. But the lack of signage for cars leads to some confusion, as drivers feel like they’re on a street, and pedestrians feel they’re on a sidewalk.
At the moment, parts of the park that were meant to be entirely car-free, such as Aberdeen Square (where “no parking” signs are in place), are being used for cars in an unofficial way: people are parking there, and no one is telling them not to — at least not yet, and not firmly. It seems as though the policy is to gradually educate people about where cars are allowed, rather than to crack down. As recently as last week, people parking in unauthorized areas were receiving tickets — but for $0.
To confuse matters even more, one city councillor (Orleans Coun. Bob Monette) recently suggested that the football field could be used for parking in the winter. While it was only one councillor’s suggestion, and the measure is unlikely to be accepted, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which owns the property, said they would be happy to consider the option.
So now I think I have an answer for that friend of mine: yes, apparently. If there’s room enough for cars, and it’s paved, and there are no obvious bollards or barriers, people will drive into a park.
Kathryn Hunt (@k8thek8) is a writer, editor of Centretown BUZZ, storyteller, poet, cycling blogger, rock climber, mysterious techno vixen (confirmed) and geek. Not necessarily in that order. You can read her cycling blog at theincidentalcyclist.blogspot.ca.