Monday, October 5, 2015

Will a Chicane Help Calm Traffic?

Last Friday, Town Staff installed a temporary traffic calming measure on Haist Street North (north of Regional Road 20). Shortly after, I drove through and posted a photo on my Facebook pages and other social media. The reactions were immediate and polarized.

The Town has been grappling with ways in which to help calm traffic and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists for a number of years. More than a decade ago, the Town implemented “Community Safety Zones” on Haist Street (near AK Wigg School) and on Pelham Street (near GA Green School) to double the normal fine for speeders. We have added flashing lights in most school zones and employ a team of dedicated crossing guards help local students to cross the road.

Over the last nine years, we’ve also dramatically improved our walking and cycling infrastructure. We’ve added more than 13 km of sidewalks in areas like Pelham Street (Pancake to Broad), Haist Street (from Welland Rd to north of Regional Rd 20), Regional Road 20 (from Rice to Lookout), Maple Street (from Canboro to Sandra), Port Robinson Road (from Pelham St. to Rice), Church Street (from Martha Crt to Centennial Park) and along Pelham Town Square. We’ve also added more than 9 km of new bike lanes – notably on Haist, Port Robinson, and Regional Road 20.

To make it safer for folks to cross the street, we’ve added five new crosswalks – at the Fonthill Library Branch, at AK Wigg, and on Pelham St. at Church Hill, at Pancake and at Spruceside. We also added a traffic light at Pelham and Port Robinson and improved the pedestrian crossings on Regional Road 20 at Pelham and Haist Streets. We have also added stop signs to better regulate traffic – Quaker at Line, Port Robinson at Station, Canboro at Balfour, and Sawmill at Wessel.

To help slow traffic we’ve added speed bumps to Haist Street, and narrowed the road width on Regional Road 20 (up the hill between Canboro and Church Hill), and in Downtown Fenwick. We’ve even painted center lines and edge lines on a few roads to make them appear narrower so that drivers slow down.

Because of ongoing speeding and persistent resident complaints, staff recently set-up a temporary traffic calming measure – called a chicane or a bulbout – on Haist Street North. While they will be monitoring pre- and post-speeds, area residents emailed staff that the “temporary installment made an instant improvement. Traffic is slowing!”

Because of the diverse reactions on Facebook – some in favour, some confused, some vigorously opposed – I thought I would write about the pilot project here.

Please provide your own reaction to Town Councillors or me directly.
To see a sample of what other communities across the United States are trying to reduce traffic speeds, please see this USA Today article.

Update November 2016:
Tests showed a significant decrease in speeds as a result of this temporary chicane. Council approved the installation of a permanent feature. It is being installed before the end of November 2016.