Ottawa’s Sparks street tweeted a link to a survey earlier this week.
You will likely have noticed that the Sparks Street BIA has put executive director Les Gagné in charge of promoting the street, once the street of streets. I noticed a few cosmetic changes over the last few months and you will remember the New Year’s Eve celebration in Sparks Street. There were many people out to listen to several bands. (Tim Horton’s on Sparks was attracting a huge crowd too). The stage was placed near some scaffolding and one Provence (lots of blue and yellow hues I seem to remember) type restaurant still had its patio fences out, which brought the moving crowds to a stand still. But at least there is some spark coming back.
Les is facing a gargantuan task: you can invent all the wonderful things in the world, but if for example retail rents are too high, it doesn’t go anywhere. It is the classic chicken or the egg situation: actually probably not, as no retailer is going to start in an empty street if there is no clientèle. So Les has to bring the people back first. There might be one exception, and that is entertainment. Entertainment can attract people from relatively far. Cue Lone Star Café on Baseline and Fisher. I am happy for Sparks Street and Les that Les Trois Brasseurs/The three brewers moved in, although their entrance looks very much out of touch with the building they are in.
Close to Ottawan Hearts
Considering the number of followers and the interaction that @SparksStreet generates, Sparks Street is still close to many Ottawan hearts. That is a strength that he has to build on. There are no cars other than the illegally parked trucks, but they get ticketed on a regular basis. I suspect they are ruining the pavers by the way.
Some cyclists (disclosure: I suggested it and others reacted positively) proposed to allow cycling in the street and it appears from the tweeting that Les is not opposed to it. There is always the fear of speed, but that is unfounded. Unfortunately, either many think of cycling as a sport (need for speed) or see the odd cyclist cycling too fast. The latter observation is not justified. Cyclists will adjust to their environment as we know that in a collision we will fall badly. Yes, pedestrian accidents happen, but the vast majority happens between pedestrians and cars. (Statistic: around 300 pedestrians die in traffic in Canada every year).
In modern multi modal thinking, the pendulum swings more and more towards mixed use of public space. Ask City of Ottawa’s Nelson Edwards in charge of Downtown Moves. Countries like the Netherlands have many of those spaces that are only slightly separated from each other, through different colours of pavement, or there might not even be any separation at all.
Recently, Mobycon visited Ottawa and owner Johan Diepens told us that Anglo Saxon countries think way too much in separation of pedestrians and cyclists. Here are a number of pictures I took over the last few years to show that pedestrians and cyclists can mix. The easiest thing to do is to state that “it won’t work“. The more innovative and visionary way to do it is to start a pilot and see how it works. Let’s not be to afraid to experiment a bit.
What stops us?
What we learn from these examples is that not all bicyclists are created equal. The sports variety is not going to cycle here, just as you won’t find Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula 1 on Queen Street. The commuter might not cycle here too, but the destination shopper who lives in the neighbourhood or drops by after work for some groceries or a beer will. And unless they are desperate for a Beau’s, they won’t race. Remember that the world wide average speed of a commuter cyclist is not much higher than 16-17 km/hr. I bet on Sparks it will be around 13 km/hr. In fact, at rush hour, I don’t even go much faster in my car on the major arteries..
So, let’s go for it. What’s Sparks Street waiting for? More on Sparks street and its looks in last year’s post.