A ‘pedestrian scramble’ for Nelson’s Ward and Baker intersection?

Pedestrian scrambles are an innovation well known in much of the world but relatively new to North America.

New ideas for the Ward and Baker intersection include pedestrian bulb-outs

In a “pedestrian scramble,” all four lights at an intersection go red at the same time so pedestrians can cross diagonally or straight. That’s one of the innovations being proposed by members of the public in Nelson’s downtown redesign project. The scramble would be at the intersection of Baker and Ward.

Pedestrian scrambles are an innovation well known in much of the world but relatively new to North America, says Nelson city planner Megan Squires.

Traffic flow would need to be carefully managed to avoid bottlenecks, Squires says, but she explains the people contributing to the design wanted to find ways to put pedestrians first.

Squires hastens to add the drawings that came out of two sessions this month are just ideas, so far. Not even the stone is set in stone, including the granite bricks that would be used to create a new kind of street surface at that same intersection.

“The different surface would signify that intersection is a different, important place,” she told the Star.

There would be sidewalk bulb-outs on all four corners to “increase the amenity space in the downtown.”

These ideas and others outlined below were generated by Nelson residents at a public gathering at which about 30 people sat down for a day with a facilitator from MVH Urban Planning and Design (see photos below this article).  Two days later their ideas were presented at a session at the Capitol Theatre to an audience of about 25 who were asked to comment. Both events were advertised as open to public participation.

A new kind of amenity area

A second idea presented at the second meeting was a plan for the 400 block of Baker that would remove the amenity area wall and open the space up and introduce free seating at tables and chairs that people could move to suit their purpose. (See design drawing at left.)

“This has been piloted in many communities and demonstrated to be really effective for people having control over how they sit,” Squires said. “They can move the chairs and table around how they want.”

There would also be a larger “community table” that could be covered for use in the rain or in winter, unique lighting, and a different surfacing material to tie the area into the sidewalk.

Pop-up planning events

Other ideas presented included enhancing the bulb-outs at Vernon and Ward with more seating, art, and plants, as well as re-designing the 500 block of Ward, which might include moving the bus stop to a flatter location thereby creating more parking.

More information and the opportunity to comment can be found at nelsonurbandesign.com.

The city will continue talking with the public through the summer, says Squires.

“We will be doing some pop-up events in various locations, including at the market. We’ve hired a student from Selkirk College who will be out in the community.”

The student will set up a display table at various events and talk with the public about things such as lighting, asking people to consider specific ideas and seeking input.

In the fall, a draft design strategy for Baker St. will be presented to the public and then a final draft will be submitted to council for its approval.

The budget for the planning and design is $50,000.

The photos below were taken at the June 18 public session that led to the designs discussed in this article. Photos by Bill Metcalfe.

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