5 Ave. & 4 St. SW

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In downtown Calgary wide arterial one-way streets are the norm. Good for moving cars and terrible at doing much else. But that’s another story.

At the intersection of 4 St & 5 Ave SW, two 5-lane wide, one-way streets converge.

In this intersection there is a one lane wide patch of barely touched snow 6 hours after a snow event. Christopher Doyle who submitted the photos also mentioned that this snow lasts in the intersection for multiple weeks in the winter.

So I looked into why.

The left hand lane as 4st SW approaches this intersection has no rush hour parking restrictions so it receives near constant usage as vehicle storage. Additionally, the space would never be needed for left turns because anyone making a turn from this lane would be met with the oncoming traffic of 5th Ave.

The only time the space isn’t used for parking is for the street sweepers and plows early on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Because of this near round the clock use for parking, the lane holds no utility as a travel lane through the intersection.

The way we’ve redesigned the road is simple.  We reclaimed the snowed out corner as it was not being utilized in it’s current set-up. In it’s place we have a curb extension where the snow accumulates. This shortens the crossing distance from roughly 16 meters down to just 12. By reducing the crossing distance by 25% this becomes a much more manageable crossing for everyone, especially the elderly and persons with disabilities.

We also created space for overcrowding at what is likely a congested corner. We can see this from the footprints in the snow over the course of a Sunday morning.

Motorists also reap the benefits of intuitive design here. Approaching the intersection, if you miss the one-way sign then a right-angle curb could be another helpful hint alerting you not to drive into oncoming traffic.

From my last post, some folks believed these “nice to have’s” projects would be simply a waste when you consider the expense to design and build on such a small scale. I agree with that entirely. The standard way we build roads doesn’t typically give the ‘wiggle room’ needed to implement these projects quickly and inexpensively.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way.

These small areas are the perfect scale to be improved with temporary materials like flexiposts, paint and road line tape. Similar to the project pictured below.


These projects can drastically reduce the costs of a projects by short cutting the process to provide raw improvements instead of focusing energy and spending on cutting concrete and realigning sewer grates. Sometimes community members feel like they can even deliver these projects on their own. This temporary project model is being tested even by the City of Calgary through their new pedestrian strategy and could reduce the cost of these types of projects down to mere hundreds of dollars. Imagine the possibilities for quick fixes while always planning to make the improvements permanent when the road needs to be redone.

Photos submitted by Christopher Doyle.

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