A Sober (Almost) Second Thought

It may not be immediately apparent to the naked eye but I am not an expert on all things. In fact, it could be argued, there are times I might not know what I’m talking about. thoughtfulYet, that doesn’t always stop me from talking about them.

Somewhere in between those two points on a curve, I wrote about the newly designed, rebuilt and unveiled Queens Quay. In the post, I suggested Edward Keenan of the Toronto Star was, how did I put it again? “Wildly off the mark” in his early assessment of the roadway. In hindsight, it would probably have been better stated: I disagree rather emphatically with Mr. Keenan, suggesting more that our opinions on the subject differed rather than I was right and he was wrong.

Last Wednesday, I travelled back down to Queens Quay for a couple hours to supplement my original take on it registered by a quick bike through there and back on the previous weekend. I talked for a few minutes with a TTC worker, queensquay4standing at the Lower Spadina intersection, manually realigning streetcar tracks as the newly installed on-board switch mechanism wasn’t functioning properly. I chatted for a few more minutes with a couple motorcycle traffic enforcement police officers, taking a quick snack break.

Their general take on the new Queens Quay, a couple weeks into the new era, was a general bemused bewilderment. There were spots along the way people, whether on foot, on bike or behind the wheel of a car, were genuinely confused. Hell, one of the cops told me on his first run along it, he’d made an improper turn. The layout was confusing at times. Right of ways weren’t always clearly marked and obvious. Tweaks and rejigs would be necessary to avoid a serious accident at some point of time. Up to now it had been fender-benders and heated exchange of words.

Which was Ed Keenan’s point in his articles. Queens Quay was good but it could be better, it needed to be better. One of the motorcycle cops suggested for advanced turn signals, use arrows instead of solid colours so that drivers would realize that signal was directed at them and not simply some helpful suggestion to take or leave. queensquay7At points of possible conflict, make it obvious not merely intuitive.

In my defense, however, after parking myself with a coffee at one of the street’s flashpoints, Queens Quay and Lower Simcoe, to take in the proceedings, there was a lot more going on than simply confusion especially on many drivers’ parts. Despite a sort of new quirky layout especially with the streetcar right of way positioned along the side of the street (counter to the established in Toronto right down the middle alignment), some pretty straight-forward things were either willfully ignored or absent-mindedly overlooked, let’s say. Clearly marked – with accompanying bright new neon coloured NEW signs — No Right Turns went regularly unnoticed, resulting in cars either scattering pedestrians or stopping street cars. The aforementioned advance turn signals were oftentimes run while red, resulting in [see previous sentence].

As for the frequently assailed streetcar right of way, let me just say this. With its ever so slight but still unmistakable ramp up onto it, drivers have to be either completely unaware of their surroundings or entirely determined to miss the fact that they’re not supposed to be driving there. queensquay5Neither option is particularly assuring. I saw a driver wind up on the streetcar tracks as she looked up from a phone in her hand. Another one deliberately used the right of way to jump out ahead of pedestrians crossing to make the left turn.

Painting the right of way a different colour or installing more obvious signage wasn’t going to alter that kind of behaviour. Simple enforcement of basic traffic laws would. A changing of the mindset that the power balance of road usage here was different than elsewhere in the city. That’s what was ultimately going to be needed for the new Queens Quay to work.

I guess my real beef with Ed Keenan’s view was my resentment that drivers needed more help understanding the concept. Fuck them, am I right? queensquay6If more assistance was necessary, maybe you shouldn’t be driving a car in the first place or, at least, maybe you should be driving better.

In retrospect though, maybe I’m the one needing an attitude adjustment. Change doesn’t happen just because you want it to and not everyone welcomes the same kind of change you do. The new Queens Quay represents a definite change of approach to moving people through and along a very small but important part of the city. Why not do whatever you can to help people get comfortable with the change? Even the ones, both literally and figuratively, in the driver’s seat.

(almost) humbly submitted by Cityslikr

4 thoughts on “A Sober (Almost) Second Thought

  1. It all comes down to respect for people who make different choices from you. If you want to ban drivers from Queens Quay, then come out and say so. It’s a legitimate position to take, and certainly much more respectful than this passive-aggressive “Let them come, but make them suffer for having the temerity to do so” attitude you seem to have. To refer to a previous post of yours, if the obnoxious uncle knew that he wasn’t really wanted at the wedding, he could preserve his dignity and simply choose himself not to attend.

    But it’s almost like you want motorists to go there and get confused and screw up. Then people like you can turn around and say “See how incompetent these drivers are! We need to get them off the road.”

    I’m afraid I just don’t understand people whose first instinct is to punish someone for doing things that are legal but that they just happen not to like.

    • You have expressed similar attitude towards cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. I give you credit you have not hidden your disdain to pedestrian and cycling giving way to the privileged car driver. You ask for a two way view but give a myopic one each time.

      • Oh? The last statement I made on here in relation to that subject was “As a citizen, I have no problem paying taxes to build bike and transit infrastructure, even though I use neither.” Hardly a sentiment in keeping with your description of me, unless you consider my not riding a bike or using transit as sufficient evidence of my “disdain” for both modes of transportation.

        Could you imagine Cityslikr making a statement like mine, but about infrastructure to support cars? Could you in fact make such a statement about infrastructure for cars?

        I’ll admit that I’m not too crazy about certain militant pro-cycling activists and their zero-sum game attitude to their relationship with cars and motorists, but that’s hardly the same thing as the blanket condemnation of drivers one often encounters on this site or those of other urbanists. I’m not their equal-and-opposite. I support people choosing to bike, walk or take public transit, and I believe the infrastructure should be there to enable those choices.

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