Friday, January 19, 2007

Letter for Liveable Community

PO Box 19, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton ON L8S 1C0
905-525-9140 ext. 26026

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dear Councillor Powers,

Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) is a working group of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) McMaster. TLC works to achieve balanced sustainable transportation solutions in the city of Hamilton.

We are writing to draw attention to the traffic situation on Governor’s Road in Dundas.

With the new Dundas West elementary school under construction on Governors Road at Bridlewood, there will be three schools (including Highland Secondary School and St. Bernadette’s elementary school) on this short stretch of highway (less than 1km).

The statement of a problem can make all the difference when seeking solutions. TLC is concerned that a solution you offered on your web site during the recent election campaign begins with the assumption that “traffic flow” is the problem on Governor’s Road, and offers road widening as a solution.

TLC feels that this is the wrong assumption and a desperately wrong conclusion.

The problem, as we see it, is traffic flows all too well the majority of the time on Governor’s, and that the speed of that flow puts school children and other pedestrians, cyclists and drivers at risk.

As you are likely aware there is a direct correlation between traffic speed and pedestrian fatalities:

Fig. 1 U.K. Department of Transportation, 1987. Killing Speed and Saving Lives, London, UK DOT.

Generally the only time traffic slows down on Governors is during “rush” hours, when the presence of too many single occupancy vehicles all going in the same direction at the same time creates a situation that is, from a pedestrian and cycling point of view, actually safer in terms of collision impacts. We should be aiming for a 30km/h maximum speed limit in the school zone.

TLC would thus prefer to pose the question: “what measures can be employed to create a safe and healthy environment for children using active methods of getting to school (i.e. cycling, walking) and to engineer a safer roadside environment for area residents outside of school hours?”

The City of Hamilton’s Public Health department recognizes the need for safe routes to school:

“Concerns about health and pedestrian safety among our children and air quality issues are prompting us to rethink the way we choose to get around in our communities,” said Sue Connell, Public Health Nurse with the City of Hamilton. “Obesity and inactivity in young children are reaching unprecedented levels and are creating serious health problems in our children. Vehicle transportation contributes to air pollution and smog and our children are especially vulnerable to the impacts of poor air quality. Many of the school zones in the Hamilton area are unsafe because of traffic concerns because large numbers of children are being transported to and from school. By walking to school with their parents or caregivers, children have an excellent opportunity to learn and develop their pedestrian skills.”

newsandpublications/newsreleases/ 2005news/september/05-09-30.htm

Road widening would only allow for increased vehicle speeds and make crossings more dangerous than the current situation, and run counter to the goals of the Transportation Master Plan currently under consideration by the city, and the goals outlined in Vision 2020:
  • To develop an integrated sustainable transportation system for people, goods and services which is environmentally friendly, affordable, efficient, convenient, safe and accessible.
  • To encourage a shift in personal lifestyle and behaviour towards transportation choices that enhance personal health and fitness, save money, and have the lowest environmental cost.

It is imperative that we get the necessary improvements in place as opportunity presents itself. And it is important that proper engineering is applied to ensure safe outcomes.

When slowing or ‘calming’ traffic, the right design invites the right driver response. The guiding principle of traffic calming is to influence motorist speeds and behavior through good design whenever possible, rather than by traffic control measures such as traffic signals and STOP signs.

There are many design and engineering tools that can be used to slow down traffic and make it safer for children to walk and bicycle to school including;
  • Narrow lanes
  • Chokers and chicanes
  • Speed humps
  • Raised pedestrian crosswalks
  • Neighborhood traffic circles
  • Reduced corner radiiSpeed sensitive signals

Proper consideration must be given to effective traffic calming design if we are to be supportive of active modes of transportation like walking and cycling. Lane narrowing, the addition of bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks, a traffic median, a pedestrian crossing are all potential treatments that could enhance the safety of the school zone.

Surely the concentration of schools on this dangerous roadway makes safety considerations a priority for the city to address in a timely fashion.

TLC is happy to assist by being part of a public process that effectively deals with the worthy goals of providing safe and active routes to school, and improved cycling and walking facilities for area residents.

TLC would appreciate your prompt response and an outline/timeline of the next steps you intend to take.

We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Randy Kay

For Transportation for Liveable Communities

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