On the Four Paths

timeless
Photo by Jesse Vermeulen, posted at Unsplash.

First Path

In the beginning was the path. It was undifferentiated, shared by people and animals alike, and eventually wheeled vehicles pulled by humans and animals. While dating the First Path is impossible — the very first First Path must have been a path that was reused once, and slightly better than the unimproved space around it — it operated both in early settlements and on routes connecting nearby settlements.

Today’s version of that is the sidewalk or footpath. It is now used for people walking, sometimes for people moving goods, and occasionally for people on scooters and bicycles. It should not be used for storing cars, though it is. New uses will include low speed delivery robots, as shown in the photo from Starship.

When we see a raised crosswalk, we know the First Path is given the pre-eminance its venerable status warrants. When we see shared spaces, we know those harken back to the early undifferentiated path-spaces of earlier centuries. When we see pedestrian-only zones, we see a First Path that has grown up.

Starship
Starship Technologies

Second Path

The Second Path diverges from the first path with the emergence of the first street or roads with sidewalks (footpaths).  Spiro Kostof (1992) dates it to about 2000 BCE in Anatolia. And it is clear many Roman and Greek cities separated sidewalks from streets, which the Romans called Semita.

Post-Rome, sidewalks were rare, making appearances in London after the Great Fire, and in Paris after Haussman.

But to be clear, today’s sidewalk is not the second path, it is the first. The second path is the road which is largely free of pedestrians, intended for the movement of vehicles. Originally these were animal powered vehicles, as well as human. Later fuel-powered machines took over the street and roads.

camel
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Third Path

Cyclists Avenue Sydney Cyclists Avenue Sydney (1900)

The Third Path actually emerged well before the Second Path was colonized by motorized vehicles. It is for bicycles, and initially was paved in contrast with the unpaved streets and roads of its time. Given the first Velocipede was only 1817, and the first bike chain (which we associate with modern bicycles) was 1885, these came relatively quickly compared with the First and Second Paths. While ascertaining the first bike lane or separated bike path is tricky (there are many claims, differing in nuance), I have compiled some claimed firsts and earlies here (thanks to people who replied on Twitter):

While bike lanes have now been around as a technology for well more than a century, throughout most of North America and Australia, bike lanes are not provisioned, so bicyclists have the Hobson’s Choice of driving in traffic with much heavier and much faster automobiles and trucks on the Second Path, the roadbed or illegally in many cases on the First Path, the sidewalk.

With the advent of the smart phone, new modes are becoming feasible, most notably dockless shared bikes and scooters.

Regulations in many places limit the use of bikes on footpaths. The reasons for this are clear from the pedestrian’s point of view, bikes are traveling up to 4 times faster than walkers, and collision can create injury. Dockless shared bikes emerged in Australia in 2017, after a few years on the road in China. Their main contribution has however not been transport (they are used about once every 3 days) but instead as a the recipient of complaint about sidewalk clutter (unlike say cars, which are always parked perfectly). As a consequences they have been targets of vandalism. The obvious solution will eventually get adopted, geofenced corrals for parking bikes (shared and private), taking away one parking space per block perhaps.

Given the disparities of speeds on the first (5 km/h) and second paths (30-120 km/h), there is a clear market niche for an infrastructure network  for vehicles faster than foot and slower than cars. Physically, one imagines it generally lying between the existing kerb and removing a lane now devoted to the storage or movement of cars. And for many if not most urban places globally, this has been recognized and networks of third paths have been, or will be, built out.

This Third Path is important not just for bikes, but for electric bikes (which are becoming increasingly feasible with progress in battery technology) and electric scooters.

Fourth Path

A Fourth Path for buses (and other high occupancy vehicles) is also now considered. The first bus lane emerged in Chicago in 1940. The reason for bus lanes again is in part operational differences compared with existing road users. Buses start and stop in traffic much more frequently than cars. But a second reason is in fact the opposite, not because buses would block cars, but because cars would block buses. Buses carry more passengers than cars, and so should move faster, and can do so if they are not stuck in queues behind cars.

Interfaces

The Kerb – Once a nondescript piece of concrete now forms the edge (both physically and metaphorically) of the sharing economy: taxis, Ubers, autonomous mobility services. The Kerbspace differentiates and separates paths, but we now have new questions:

  • Who manages kerbspace? 
  • How is it regulated?
  • Is it even mapped?

Comp(l)ete Streets

The complete streets movement advocates for streets with sidewalks, bike paths, and are otherwise designed to promote safety and efficiency. The figure below is not exactly what they have in mind.

JusticiaUrbana
Justicia Urbana by Todorovic (https://www.flickr.com/photos/unhabitat/23003427510)

Antecedents to a Pedestrian Bill of Rights

Below are some sources that make points similar to what might be in a Pedestrian Bill of Rights. Feel free to share more, I will add to the post. These are not in a particular order.

A shared space street in Bern, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and transit. http://pedbikesafetyinternationalscan.blogspot.com/2009/05/shared-space-street-in-bern-allowing.html
A shared space street in Bern, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and transit.

 

The illustrated Charter of Pedestrian Rights  (PDF) in English by Mexican pedestrian advocates   says:

As pedestrians we have the right to:

  • Cross the street calmly and safely
  • A city that fits my needs
  • Adequate public transportation services
  • Organized urban centers
  • Socialize in public spaces
  • Play in the streets
  • Suitable street furniture
  • Spacious sidewalks
  • A healthy environment and enjoyment of the space
  • Walk calmly on the street.

National Street Service: Jaywalker’s bill of rights

  1.  The right to cross without intimidation from motorists, whether in the crosswalk or not
  2.  The right to medical care without cost for injuries inflicted by motorists
  3.  The right to fewer moving traffic lanes
  4.  The right to lower motorists’ speed
  5.  The right to pass by
  6.  The right to stop, sit, recline, and rest without harassment or intimidation
  7.  The right to avoid activities one finds dangerous or unsavory
  8.  The right to express needs and desires for the neighborhood
  9.  The right to determine one’s own safest, most suitable route

LA’s new Mobility Principles for transportation happiness:

  • Freedom to Get Around
  • Freedom from Disruptions
  • Freedom from Harm
  • Freedom to Connect
  • Freedom from Exclusion

Austroads – Level of Service Metrics (for Network Operations Planning)

Pedestrian LOS

  • Mobility
    • Footpath congestion
    • Grade of path
    • Crossing delay or detour
  • Safety
    • Exposure to vehicles at mid- blocks
    • Exposure to vehicles at crossings
    • Trip hazards
  • Access
    • Crossing opportunities
    • Level of disability access
  • Information Amenity
    • Traveller information available including signposting
  • Amenity
    • Footpath pavement conditions
    • Comfort and convenience features
    • Security
    • Aesthetics
  • The Right-Of-Way When Using Crosswalks: Motorists failing to yield the right-of-way at crosswalks is the No. 1 dangerous behavior contributing to fatal traffic crashes in San Francisco. Motorists “shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.” Motorists must always stop for pedestrians crossing at streets corners, with or without traffic signal lights and whether or not the crosswalk is marked by painted lines. Further, even if the marked crosswalk is the middle of the block, motorists must stop for pedestrians.
  • The Right To Unimpeded Use Of A Crosswalk: A crosswalk is the part of the roadway set aside for pedestrian traffic. Motorists and bicyclists must stop behind the line at traffic signals and stop signs.
  • The Right Not To Be Struck By A Speeding Vehicle: Motorists traveling at an unsafe speed is the second most dangerous behavior contributing to fatal traffic crashes in San Francisco. Speeding increases stopping distance and collision force. When a person is hit by a vehicle traveling at 20 miles per hour, there is a 90 percent chance of survival. The survival rate drops to 20 percent if a person is hit by a vehicle traveling at 40 miles per hour. Motorists approaching a pedestrian “within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.”
  • The Right Not To Be Struck In The Roadway: While pedestrians should not jaywalk and always use crosswalks to cross a roadway, even if the pedestrian is within a portion of the roadway other than a crosswalk motorists must slow down. Motorists are under the duty “exercise due care for the safety of any pedestrian” no matter where the pedestrian is on the roadway. This rule also applies to bicyclists because, as a rule, bicyclists have the same duties and responsibilities as motorists.
  • The Right To Unimpeded Use Of Sidewalks: Adult bicyclists, and even teenage bicyclists, are prohibited from riding on sidewalks in most California cities. In San Francisco, it is illegal to bike on a sidewalk if the bicyclist is 13 years of age or older. Of course, bicyclists can dismount and walk their bike on sidewalk. At that point, they are pedestrians under the law.

Los Angeles Walks reports on Los Angeles City Council file Number 87-2261 —  Pedestrian Bill of Rights

which says “The People of Los Angeles have the right to:”

  • 1. Safe roads and safe places to cross the street
  • 2. Pedestrian-oriented building facades, trees, flower stands, trash cans, awnings, etc.
  • 3. Safe and comfortable bus stops and public transit stations
  • 4. Appealing use of landscaping and available open space
  • 5. Full notification of all street widening that impinge on public open space and sidewalks
  • 6. Access to streets and buildings for disabled people
  • 7. Clean surroundings, requiring removal of graffiti and advertisements from public property
  • 8. Have needs of pedestrians considered as heavily as the needs of drivers
  • 9. Public works of Art

Arrol Gellner offered a Pedestrian Bill of Rights:

  • 1. When traffic laws say pedestrians have the right of way, that shouldn’t just mean that if you’re hit by a car, it’s not your fault. People on foot shouldn’t have to fear, evade, negotiate or maneuver around cars, whether moving or parked, just because planners routinely put the convenience of people inside vehicles far above that of people using their own two feet.
  • 2. No pedestrian should ever find that the only way to reach that store or office on foot is to cross a huge desert of asphalt, with moving cars threatening on all sides. Any parking area with more than two rows of stalls should be required to have a pedestrian walkway running down the strip where cars usually face off nose-to-nose. If these walkways reduce the space available for parking cars, well, boo hoo. Cars already take up 20 times as much space as a person does. Enough is enough.
  • 3. No pedestrian should ever be expected to cross more than four lanes of traffic, whether or not there are crossing signals present. The vast six- and even eight-lane boulevards that are being imposed on more and more of our suburbs tear neighborhoods apart and form virtual Grand Canyons to people on foot.
  • Once and for all, planners should shake the wrongheaded belief that the way to fix traffic congestion is to make roads wider. This is like telling a 400-pound man with a heart condition that what he really needs is some bigger pants. The wider we make our roads, the more traffic will arrive to fill them up, and the more impassable our cities will become to people on foot.
  • 4. In dense urban areas, pedestrians should be free to shop, stroll or sightsee without constant threat of assault by cars, buses or taxis. Hence, planners should provide centralized public parking at the fringe of city cores, offer a shuttle service and make downtown blocks pedestrian-only zones. Sedentary car jockeys would benefit from having to walk a few steps to get where they’re going, and the rest of us would be blessed with a quieter, greener and less-polluted city.
  • 5. Lastly, American planners should recognize that, in relative terms, cars are a mere fleeting speck of technology, like the chariot, the man-of-war and the steam locomotive. We bipeds, on the other hand, are hopefully here for the long run. It’s just plain dumb to continue building an entire nation around a machine that’ll likely be obsolete in 50 years — especially considering that, no matter what takes its place, we’ll always want to get around on our own two feet.

Breines and Dean (1974) write about a  Pedestrian Bill of Rights in The Pedestrian Revolution: Streets without Cars:

  • The city shall not harm the pedestrian.
  • The streets belong to all the people, and shall not be usurped for the passage and storage of motor vehicles.
  • People shall have the right to cycle in safety; that means ample provision of bikeways separate from trucks, buses and automobiles.
  • To reduce dependence on the automobile, city and suburban residents shall have the right to convenient, clean and safe mass transportation.
  • People shall be freed from the heavy burdens of daily travel by having the opportunity to live near their places of work.
  • Urban residents shall have plentiful and generous open public places – outside of parks – for gatherings and ceremonies.
  • Pedestrians shall have the right to breathe clean air on streets, free of the harmful fumes of vehicles.
  • Standing room only on city streets shall end by providing benches for sitting and relaxation.
  • The sounds of human voices shall replace vehicular noise on city streets.
  • Concern for the welfare of pedestrians shall extend to the surface under foot — with paving congenial for walking — and shall include human-scale street furniture and signs.
  • Urban man shall have the right to experience trees, plants, and flowers along city streets.
  • Cities shall exist for the care and culture of human beings, pedestrians all!

 

Donald Appleyard (1981) included a “Statement of Street Dwellers Rights” in Livable Streets.

  • The Street as a Safe Sanctuary
  • The Street as a Livable, Healthy Environment
  • The Street as a Community
  • The Street as Neighborly Territory
  • The Street as a Place for Play and Learning
  • The Street as a Green and Pleasant Land
  • The Street as a Unique Historic Place
This is being updated as part of: Donald & Bruce Appleyard, Livable Streets 2.0, Elsevier. Forthcoming 2019.

Cage the Automobile

Is the purpose of bollards to keep people in or keep cars out? A reader writes:

 

Bollards done wrong, Egypt.
Bollards done wrong. It’s a long pedestrian street, would you bollard the entire street,  because they are proposing low risers. You will end caging the people like in Egypt.

After the attack in Toronto last week with a guy driving a van and killing 10 people and injuring 15, Montreal announced a new plan for Saint Catherine street making it pedestrian friendly, with a nice wide sidewalk showing young people walking, yet  when the mayor was asked if they planned for pedestrian safety from such attack she said ‘no, we did not.’

So the moral question: should we change our planning for pedestrians to ensure safety from a crazy person in a van, terrorists, drunk drivers,  just incapacitated drivers. This is not the first, and will not be the last, time a driver plows down pedestrians. By doing so we show weakness to terrorists? Are we converting the outdoors to a Zoo placing pedestrians in cages. Should the woonerf, for example, be like an open zoo.

It’s a moral and ethical question how much separation should we have in an era when crazy people uses cars as weapons to kill random humans. How many incidents and deaths will it take to change the approach for pedestrian environments to make it as safe as air travel.  If we  add more small obstacles, how much will they spoil the pedestrian environment and sense of freedom.

 

The crazy person in a van problem is only going to get worse with automation and especially connectivity, a remote control car bomb is even easier than a suicide.

This Delft Bollard is a casualty of the Car Wars.

In my view, cars should be in the cages, the people should be free. And then the cages need to be made smaller and smaller.

All urban streets in heavily pedestrian trafficked areas should have bollards or equivalent to keep the cars away from the people. Woonerfs are fine for residential streets, and if people want to encroach on shared space that is also fine, but cars should not encroach on people space. Just as we don’t let cars in most buildings, there should be outdoor public spaces where they are also prohibited.

We don’t need fences or chains like in the photo of Egypt, just lots of posts (trees, bike racks, benches, bus stops, street furniture, planters etc.) that make it impossible for a car to run down the sidewalk or into buildings. This furniture of course should not interfere with the free flowing movement of people, and might require taking lanes from the storage, or even movement, of cars. As with all good urban design, examples of this are in Delft, with some lowerable Bollards to allow service, emergency, and freight vehicles in when needed.

 

Delft defining Pedestrian domain.
Delft, lowerable Bollards on a bridge

 

 

 

 

 

Access Across America: Auto 2015

CTS Catalyst September 2016 just came out, and announces our Access Across America: Auto 2015 study: Study estimates accessibility to jobs by auto in U.S. cities. The article is reprinted below:

Map of Accessibility to jobs by auto in U.S.
Accessibility to jobs by auto

A new report from the University’s Accessibility Observatory estimates the accessibility to jobs by auto for each of the 11 million U.S. census blocks and analyzes these data in the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan areas.

“Accessibility is the ease and feasibility of reaching valuable destinations,” says Andrew Owen, director of the Observatory. “Job accessibility is an important consideration in the attractiveness and usefulness of a place or area.”

Travel times are calculated using a detailed road network and speed data that reflect typical conditions for an  8 a.m. Wednesday morning departure. Additionally, the accessibility results for 8 a.m. are compared with accessibility results for 4 a.m. to estimate the impact of road and highway congestion on job accessibility.

Map of U.S. showing reduced job accessibility due to congestion
Reduced job accessibility due to congestion

Rankings are determined by a weighted average of accessibility, with a higher weight given to closer, easier-to-access jobs. Jobs reachable within 10 minutes are weighted most heavily, and jobs are given decreasing weights as travel time increases up to 60 minutes.

Based on this measure, the research team calculated the 10 metropolitan areas with the greatest accessibility to jobs by auto (see sidebar).

A similar weighting approach was applied to calculate an average congestion impact for each metropolitan area. Based on this measure, the team calculated the 10 metropolitan areas where workers experience, on average, the greatest reduction in job access due to congestion (see sidebar).

Areas with the greatest loss in job accessibility due to congestion

  1. Los Angeles
  2. Boston
  3. Chicago
  4. New York
  5. Phoenix
  6. Houston
  7. Riverside
  8. Seattle
  9. Pittsburgh
  10. San Francisco

Metropolitan areas with the greatest job accessibility by auto

  1. New York
  2. Los Angeles
  3. Chicago
  4. Dallas
  5. San Jose
  6. San Francisco
  7. Washington, DC
  8. Houston
  9. Boston
  10. Philadelphia

“Rather than focusing on how congestion affects individual travelers, our approach quantifies the overall impact that congestion has on the potential for interaction within urban areas,” Owen explains.

“For example, the Minneapolis–St. Paul metro area ranked 12th in terms of job accessibility but 23rd in the reduction in job access due to congestion,” he says. “This suggests that job accessibility is influenced less by congestion here than in other cities.”

The report—Access Across America: Auto 2015—presents detailed accessibility and congestion impact values for each metropolitan area as well as block-level maps that illustrate the spatial patterns of accessibility within each area. It also includes a census tract-level map that shows accessibility patterns at a national scale.

The research was sponsored by the National Accessibility Evaluation Pooled-Fund Study, a multi-year effort led by the Minnesota Department of Transportation and supported by partners including the Federal Highway Administration and 10 state DOTs.


Related Links

Follow the Red Brick Road | streets.mn

This blog is about streets and yet we rarely talk about pavements, the road surface itself. The most common materials are bituminous asphalt and concrete, with asphalt more common on low volume local roads and concrete on higher volume freeways. The general reputation is that concrete is stronger and longer lasting but more expensive and more difficult to construct and takes longer to set.

At St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis, the Street is Brick and the Path is Asphalt.
At St. Anthony Main, Minneapolis, the Street is Brick and the Path is Asphalt.

For a brief window in the late 2000s, concrete actually had a price advantage, which explains the surface for the Marq/2 project in Minneapolis. They have other properties and claims made about them. For details on the pavement wars see ConcreteIsBetter.com and AsphaltIsBest.com (seriously, visit their sites, then come back (better yet, visit their sites from 10 or 12 years ago at archive.org (concrete) (asphalt)). Grammatically, if there were only two choices, the concrete folks would be more accurate. However there are more than two choices.

Plank Path at Mill City Museum
Plank Path at Mill City Museum

A third choice is plank roads. These were once common (in the 1840s and 1850s) when forests were still virgin and it was an improvement over dirt, and more cost effective, were it to last. Sadly it did not last. To recall the days of plank roads the Mill City Museum had a plank section installed just outside on West River parkway. Sadly recalling the earlier experience with plank roads, it too rotted before its time, and the other disadvantages (rough surface compared to asphalt) led to it being pulled out on the auto path, though it remains for the bike/walk path.

Woonerf in Delft
Woonerf in Delft

A fourth choice is brick. Fans of the Woonerf, as I have been since reading Streets Ahead, know that many neighborhood streets in the Netherlands have either retained or been restored to a brick or cobblestone surface. This encourages vehicles to slow down and connects the walking, playing, parking, and driving surfaces into one. There are many designs.

But this is Minnesota, we can’t have brick-clad Woonerf here, can we?

Yes, yes we can. Once our roads were brick too. The vernacular design differs with the local Midwest environment, but the underlying logic remains the same.

In many places, the asphalt is simply laid over the brick. (How many, I don’t think anyone knows, as the records, if they remain, are on paper in boxes at an archive.) In some places they have been uncovered. Some examples from St. Paul are below. In some places, like some streets and alleys in the Minneapolis Warehouse District, they were never covered.

Berkeley Avenue, St. Paul (via Google Earth)
Berkeley Avenue, Saint Paul (via Google Earth)
Pillsbury Street, Saint Paul (via Google Earth)
Pillsbury Street, Saint Paul (via Google Earth)

While snow and ice are harder to clear from brick than say asphalt, that too is a traffic calming measure. And there is no requirement that on residential streets snow be plowed to the surface. A compacted snow pack over residential streets will help preserve the pavement compared to scraping them with metal blades.

The merits of respective building materials can be argued, but eventually, about the time we have flying cars and real hoverboards, the more attractive brick will again dominate asphalt and concrete for residential and shopping streets. In the meantime, we can prepare for that day and try to resurface and uncover more and different road materials to help create better looking  neighborhoods and living streets for people.

 

 

Cross-posted at streets.mn.

Main Street – Grand Marais, Minnesota | streets.mn

Grand Marais (French for Great Marsh) (map), on the North Shore of Lake Superior, has the benefit of being primarily a tourist town (the “coolest” small town in America, apparently). It’s nominal population of over 13oo belies its importance as a regional hub in the summer for tens of thousands of vacationing Minnesotans. The core of the town is only a few blocks, but it abuts Lake Superior, and so most of the downtown is within two blocks of the waterfront. There is a co-op grocery, a handful of restaurants, another handful of bars, two pharmacies (that collude on their operating hours and are incapable of actually filling prescriptions — you have been forewarned), some gas stations, as well as hotels and apartments. At the confluence of the Highway 61 running along Lake Superior and the Gunflint Trail (which connects circuitously to Seagull Lake), it is the most active place along Highway 61 between Two Harbors and Thunder Bay (and arguably, more active than the latter). It is also the County Seat of Cook County, Minnesota.

There are lots of people out and about on a Saturday afternoon. The core of downtown is south of Highway 61, and is quite walkable, with preference for pedestrian, but not much traffic between the Highway and the Lake except for people parking and unparking their cars. Sven and Ole’s local pizza (Minnesota-style, in case you were concerned about too much spice) is mobbed.

 

Can't be a respectable Main Street without pennants livening it up.
Can’t be a respectable Main Street without pennants livening it up.
Grand Marais Liquor Store, Proudly featuring local craft beers
Grand Marais Liquor Store, Proudly featuring local craft beers
Cook County WholeFoods Co-op. Twin Citizens will feel at home.
Cook County WholeFoods Co-op. Twin Citizens will feel at home.
The Grand Marais Lake Front
The Grand Marais Lake Front
Public Parking at the Grand Marais Co-op
Public Parking at the Grand Marais Co-op
Free Parking is copious in Grand Marais
Free Parking is copious in Grand Marais
Bookstore with important dog accommodation instructions
Bookstore with important dog accommodation instructions
World's Best Donuts - Grand Marais, Minnesota
World’s Best Donuts – Grand Marais, Minnesota. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
S. Bally General Blacksmithing. Horse-Shoeing Wagons Plows and Farm Machinery
S. Bally General Blacksmithing. Horse-Shoeing Wagons Plows and Farm Machinery
Historical Industrial Building in Grand Marais
Historical Industrial Building in Grand Marais

Cross-posted at streets.mn

Broadacre City in Minnesota

Frank Lloyd Wright is a renowned as a great architect. His city plans are less well-loved. In the 1930s he proposed Broadacre City, a new American landscape where everyone would have an acre of land, a car, and a gyrocopter. Fueling those cars requires gasoline. Gasoline requires Gas Stations. FLW, being an architect, had a gas station design. It was actually  built in Cloquet, Minnesota (map). Needing fuel, and liking Wright, I took the opportunity to acquire some black gold at this classic design. Now a full-service Spur Station   (on Main Street, but I can’t say much about the rest of the town, since we just passed through), it continues operation. A history of the station is here.

We didn’t exactly build Broadacre City (described in his book The Living City), though we didn’t exactly not build it either, aspects of it infuse post-War suburban America. But one element was exactly constructed. and remains attractive, as gas stations go, to this day. The dreams of what became the modern landscape evolved not simply from the minds of post-war developers, but had many pre-war antecedents, reflecting the agrarian/urban conflict dating back to at least Jefferson and Hamilton.

Cloquet Gas Station - Exterior
Cloquet Gas Station – Exterior
Cloquet Gas Station - Sign
Cloquet Gas Station – Sign
Cloquet Gas Station - Interior
Cloquet Gas Station – Interior

Cross-posted at streets.mn

Main Street – Thunder Bay, Ontario | streets.mn

Okay, Thunder Bay (map) is not quite in Minnesota, but it is the largest city northeast of Minneapolis, larger even than Duluth with over 100,000 people (though of course, when you get talking about metropolitan areas, the numbers change). “Thunder Bay” didn’t even exist as a named place until 1969, it was formed by the consolidation of the adjacent Lake Superior municipalities of Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario. Wikipedia writes:

On 1 January 1970, the City of Thunder Bay was formed through the merger of the cities of Fort WilliamPort Arthur, and the geographic townships of Neebing and McIntyre.[10] Its name was the result of a referendum held previously on 23 June 1969, to determine the new name of the amalgamated Fort William and Port Arthur. Officials debated over the names to be put on the ballot, taking suggestions from residents including “Lakehead” and “The Lakehead”. Predictably, the vote split between the two, and “Thunder Bay” was the victor. The final tally was “Thunder Bay” with 15,870, “Lakehead” with 15,302, and “The Lakehead” with 8,377.[13]

There was more controversy over the selection of a name for the amalgamated city than over whether to amalgamate. A vocal majority of the population preferred the “Lakehead”.[14] There was much discussion over whether there was any other city in the world that uses the word “The” in its name, which there is, as The Pas, Manitoba has “The” in its name, for example. The area was often referred to as the “Lakehead” before and after amalgamation based on its geographic location. It was seen as the “head” of shipping on the Great Lakes and the “rail head”.

If only they had Ranked Choice Voting. Nevertheless, you can imagine the possibilities, Green Bay, Wisconsin could have renamed itself Cheesehead.

Crossing into Ontario, and the Eastern Time Zone, from Minnesota, it becomes immediately apparent that the roads are in better condition. This is not due to the gas tax, which is higher, but not dedicated to transportation, but instead better management and different priorities.

Fort William was established by the Northwest Company (1803-1821) as a fur trading outpost. Today it is a living history museum (well worth seeing if you happen to be in the neighborhood, the Great White North’s equivalent of Williamsburg) replicating its final glory days in 1816 as the Hudson’s Bay Company took over the Northwest Company, but before this outpost was disbanded.

Historical Fort William
Historical Fort William

Since Thunder Bay is an amalgam, there is more than one Main Street. In fact the official Main Street is a desolate industrial serving street. There is also a High Street in the Port Arthur section, but that is mostly residential in that area. There are also lots of strip shopping centers and big box stores in newer sections of town. Instead the traditional main street in the Fort William part of town I took to be Victoria Avenue, which is bisected by an unfortunate 1980s urban mall: Victoriaville Center. This was locked shut on Sunday morning, presumably to keep out the locals, who were not among society’s victors.

Even on a Sunday morning, transit was operating, with Bus shelters ubiquitous. Parking meters abut the buildings instead of the curbs. Accessibility, particularly to growing rather than declining economic sectors, was lacking. Even the pawn shops and check cashing are going out of business. Transportation seems the least of Thunder Bay’s problems.

The buildings on the other hand, are mixed at best. Thunder Bay is literally a hollowed out shell of its former self, as illustrated by the Canadian Bank of Commerce facade.  They shamefully let their building fall into such a stage of disrepair that only the facade remains.  If the bank were out of business, that would be bad enough. But in fact it is still an operating entity (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce). Is this how they want their brand reflected? Now I guess it is better to preserve the facade than it be a completely empty lot. But the strongest bank in Canada should want to do something with this site, if only to fund a public facility if they don’t wish a branch.

In the US we are quick to praise Canadian urbanism, looking at Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and even Edmonton and Calgary. We do not somehow look to Thunder Bay.

Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, Thunder Bay Ontario
Canadian Bank of Commerce Building, Thunder Bay Ontario
Graffiti, with commentary
Graffiti, with commentary
So the buildings don't fall down
So the buildings don’t fall down
Victoriaville Center South Entrance, Parking structure and skyway to your left. Traditional government building to your right (out of frame)
Victoriaville Center South Entrance, Parking structure and skyway to your left. Traditional government building to your right (out of frame)
Elks Lodge, Thunder Bay
Elks Lodge, Thunder Bay
Some public capital invested in the new Courthouse Building
Some public capital invested in the new Courthouse Building
Desolate streetscape in Thunder Bay
Desolate streetscape in Thunder Bay
Pop Can Fundraising
Pop Can Fundraising
Two-story building on Victoria Ave, Thunder Bay
Two-story building on Victoria Ave, Thunder Bay
Public Square and Fountain, Thunder Bay
Public Square and Fountain, Thunder Bay
Building, Thunder Bay with Art Deco elements
Building, Thunder Bay with Art Deco elements
Superior Athletes, Antiques on Victoria, Thyme by Ambiance, Thunder Bay
Superior Athletes, Antiques on Victoria, Thyme by Ambiance, Thunder Bay
May Street, 1909, Thunder Bay, Mural on side of Times Journal Building
May Street, 1909, Thunder Bay, Mural on side of Times Journal Building
Roy Building, Thunder Bay
Roy Building, Thunder Bay

Cross-posted at streets.mn

Main Street – Hutchinson, Minnesota | streets.mn

Someone on an earlier post said all the action in McLeod county is in Hutchinson, not the County Seat of Glencoe, so I should go there. So I did. Hutchinson (map), 61 miles due west of Minneapolis, is certainly a bit livelier than Glencoe, with nearly three times the population. There is an important public square , with a sculpture of the founders: the musical Hutchinson brothers. The brothers were abolitionists and among the biggest musical acts of the day, touring and provoking both imitators and satirists.

Wikipedia writes:

The Hutchinson brothers’ party of explorers chose a setting on the crest of a hill overlooking the beautiful Hassan River Valley. (The river, originally given the Indian name Hassan (Maple Leaf), is now called the Crow River.)

The group wrote 13 “Articles of Agreement” for the town. These included articles setting aside 5 acres for the Humanities Church, 15 acres for parks – making Hutchinson’s park system the 2nd oldest in the nation, 8 lots for educational purposes and stating that Hutchinson women would have equal rights with the town.

 

The town itself has about 15,000 people, and a strong Main Street compared with similar towns, though it is not at the level of somewhat larger New Ulm, Northfield, Owatonna, or Faribault. The design of Highway 15, the main route through town, connecting US12 and US212, makes Main Street more of highway than some other places (though less than St. Peter).  It still has industry, Hutchinson Technology (important in the Disk Drive sector) and 3M have facilities. There is also a MnSCU Community College branch (Ridgewater), but this seems to have less effect than full-time, larger, four-year schools. The town is on Otter Lake, which Main Street skirts, though being on a lake is no guarantee of success (as per Albert Lea).

 

 

Hutchinson, Minnesota 1855 - 2005. Founders Judson, John, and Asa Hutchinson. This Sesquicentennial Sculpture is a gift to the city from the Hutchinson Telephone Company  in honor of the Clay Families. Robert V. Wilde, Sculptor. Dedicated September 11, 2005.
Hutchinson, Minnesota 1855 – 2005. Founders Judson, John, and Asa Hutchinson. This Sesquicentennial Sculpture is a gift to the city from the Hutchinson Telephone Company in honor of the Clay Families. Robert V. Wilde, Sculptor. Dedicated September 11, 2005.
State Theater, Hutchinson
State Theater, Hutchinson
Main Street Hutchinson
Main Street Hutchinson. Note: there is a public clock.
Library
Library
Quast's Furniture. Was the Kouwe Tmey Opera House. (1891)
Quast’s Furniture. Was the Kouwe Tmey Opera House. (1891)
Cafe Eat. Best in Food. Short Orders Breakfasts Fast Food Service
Cafe Eat. Best in Food. Short Orders Breakfasts Fast Food Service
Smokes 4 Less. Farm Bureau Financial Services. Modern addition to Main Street
Smokes 4 Less. Farm Bureau Financial Services. Modern addition to Main Street
Dairy Queen
Dairy Queen
Gold Coin. Venus Salon.
Gold Coin. Venus Salon.

This is cross-posted at street.mn