February 29, 2016

The Path of Least Resistance

We all know them-sure that paved and fenced path is designed for you to follow  by bike or by  foot, but that little route off the beaten track is often so appealing.  And rightly so too-if planning followed where people actually want to travel, the world could be better. Here under desire lines is an interesting article by Kurt Kohlstedt describing how these self reinforcing pathways beaten off the “official” paths are used by universities in their campus pathway planning, and by Finnish communities to look at their trail planning processes.  You will also see some photos of ancient holloways left by thousands of ancestral street, and learn about “sneckdowns” those snowbanks in winter city parking lots that are not for people or cars.  Perfect Monday morning reading.
And where is your preferred pathway off the road more travelled? The photo above is of  stone hopping at Tupper Neighbourhood Greenway .

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  1. So true. The age of people having to conform to some authority’s idea of where they should go is over. The design of cities and roads is to serve the people in their mobility. Noticing desire lines have been a useful design tool for many years but still some don’t see it.
    A good example is the western end of Kitsilano Beach Park. Someone years ago designed some paths making some assumptions about where people would want to go. That was fine but didn’t predict one path. Over the years people wore down a path going diagonally from the southern path north west to the lane next to Point Grey Road. What should have happened next was that path would get paved (and possibly twinned) and included in the park’s design.
    But… no. They decided instead that the masses are wrong to want to walk that way and they need to be prevented from there own desires.

    1. So what happened is that Park Board put up an ugly snow fence to prevent those nasty cyclists and pedestrians from going where they wanted to go. The desire line is more direct and much safer than the existing paths. However, Park Board has steadfastly refused to remove the snow fence and fix the path. On another section of the seaside path where pedestrians expressed a desire line, Park Board actually helped out by spreading wood chips on the desire line. Why the inconsistency?
      Here is an image of the desire line pre snow fencing.

      1. Back in 2014 most cyclists I saw used the desire line. I tried the desire line, but didn’t like the uneven dirt surface and the way it met up with the road. So I went back to the official path, which put me into conflict with pedestrians at the crosswalk 🙁
        There is one advantage of the official route. From the crosswalk down to the curve in Point Grey Road there’s a nice down slope that allows a cyclist to pick up speed rapidly and shift into a fairly high gear. Many a day I watched cyclists from behind me take the desire line and get ahead of me. Seconds later I would come zipping down the hill and blow past them.
        If the desire line was a proper paved path with a smooth connection to the roadway it would be excellent for westbound travellers and remove much of the current cyclist/pedestrian conflict around the crosswalk. I’m not so sure about that path for eastbound cyclists. While it would eliminate the short uphill stretch it seems to me the required left turn would be in a place where drivers would not expect bikes to be turning and that could be problematic. Having said that I’ve never used that stretch of road for eastbound travel. I always use York eastbound.

        1. One explanation for the Park Board’s behaviour is that they (for political reasons) want to create and encourage conflicts between modes.

  2. A path across long blocks would be nice, especially in residential areas as it would make walking more interesting and often faster.