HALIFAX – Bad intersections, every major city in the world has them. They confuse us with complicated traffic signals, make us late for work, and probably cause more than their fair share of accidents.
I decided to go on a quest to point out the worst intersections in Halifax, and maybe even suggest a few fixes along the way. Now you may be wondering, what exactly qualifies me to pontificate on the inadequacies of Halifax traffic infrastructure? Well, to tell you the truth, not much really.
That’s why I decided to contact the good people at the Cities and Environment Unit, in the Department of Planning and Architecture at Dalhousie. They all had a discussion and kindly got back to me with their own list of problem intersections in Halifax. As an added bonus they’re actually qualified to suggest some legitimate fixes to our fair City’s cruddiest crossroads.
For starters, here’s my three least favorite Halifax intersections :
The curious shape of the North Commons has led to the creation of several of Halifax’s most awkward intersections. The five way special at Robie, Quinpool and Bell Road is undoubtedly the worst of the bunch.True, it may be not quite as complex as the disaster that is the Cogswell, North Park, Rainnie, Trollope and Ahern intersection, but that particular piece of byzantine engineering has less heavy traffic, so in my opinion it’s slightly better. Whichever you think is worse though, they both have many of the same problems—there’s simply too much going on: too many lights, too many weird traffic islands for pedestrians to get stranded on, too many potential ways cars can turn. I might even nominate this one for worst in the City.
2. The Rotary:
Well its better than a 5 way intersection, I’ll give you that. Nevertheless,
I’m born and raised in North America, and roundabouts are just so… European.
They confuse and frighten me equally.
Somebody over at The Coast has already ranted about getting rid of this one. Just another classic example of too much going on; unpleasant for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike.
It turns out that the Cities and Environment Unit and I have a lot in common…
The Cities and Environment Unit list:
Cities and Environment says that this five pointed gem is “very hard for pedestrians to cross,” that they’re also disappointed by the lack of bike lanes and how confusing it is for drivers. The Cities and Environment Unit also feels that an intersection connecting important landmarks like Citadel Hill and the North Commons should just look a little nicer.
The Unit feels that this one is poorly designed for pedestrians and cyclists, and generally unpleasant to look at.
3. Cogswell Street, Hollis Street and Barrington Street
They say the “cogswell interchange blocks what could be direct access to the harbour at the end of Cogswell Street. ” They’re also concerned about access for cyclists and pedestrians: “As a pedestrian, how would you get where you need to go using this intersection?” Good question Cities and Environment, good question indeed.
4. The Rotary:
The Cities and Environment says that this intersection is somewhat unnerving for pedestrians and cyclists. They also think that its circular complexities can be stressful for motorists.
*The Cities and Environment Unit also hates all of the intersections around The Maritime Center. Apparently these intersections “create a large wind-tunnel which is very uncomfortable for pedestrians.” That does sound nasty.
Well, apparently the Cities and Environment Unit and I have similar tastes in intersections. This may prove that I have an intuitive sense for poorly constructed roads, but that doesn’t mean I have any clue what to do about them. Luckily, the people over at Cities and Environment have quite a few thoughts on the subject.
Here’s some of what they had to say: “We should not just consider intersections but the streets which connect them. Good intersections occur on vibrant streets which welcome pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.” They say that we create intersections that accomplish this goal by making intersections that are both safe and aesthetically pleasing. Planners trying to improve intersections should consider better kinds of signage and other cues to make things a little more clear for everybody. They also say that improved lighting, paving and even public art would go a long way to improving our city’s worst intersections.
As a closing thought, the Cities and Environment Unit says there are some questions we need to start asking to improve the quality of our traffic infrastructure: “Who are we catering to, cars, pedestrians, cyclists? Should one be prioritized over others? We need to figure this out in order to make changes needed.”
Illustration by Mark Lamovsek
* Thanks to the Members of the Cities and Environment Unit that took the time to compile the list, they are: Ross Soward, Kristin O’Toole, Patrick Jardine, Laura Mannell, Heather Ternoway, Frank Palermo, Kate MacKay and Mark Nener.