Monday, March 06, 2006

Cootes Danger Designs

Friday, March 3, 2006

McMaster University has by far the highest concentration of pedestrians and cyclists in the city, yet the auto-centric infrastructure on Main Street West and Cootes Drive ignores this fact, posing serious barriers to their safe movement.

The recent tragedy on Cootes Drive only serves to highlight the ongoing conflict between cars and people walking and cycling in an environment where motor traffic dominates all other modes of transportation.

Transportation for Liveable Communities (TLC) is seeking structural changes to calm traffic on streets bordering McMaster University.

Speed is intimately linked to death, and speed is a recognized problem at McMaster. For instance: the report that preceded the installation of pedestrian lights on Cootes at Sanders Blvd where a 19- year-old McMaster student was struck and killed recommended a speed reduction strategy, noting that,
"Despite the presence of a posted 60 km/h speed limit, speed data recorded in the vicinity of the crosswalk indicates that vehicles significantly exceed the posted speed limits. The combination of excessive speed and the high pedestrian-bicycle crossing volume create a particularly hazardous situation." (Cootes Drive at Sanders Boulevard, Pedestrian and Cyclist Crossing Safety Review, City of Hamilton, Synectics Transportation Consultants Inc. October 2004 )
TLC believes that structural changes are needed to calm traffic on Main West and Cootes drive. For Cootes we simply point to the unfulfilled recommendations that were to accompany installation of the pedestrian lights:
"To address excessive vehicle speeds on Cootes Drive:
  • Provision of horizontal deflection, in the form of lane narrowing;
  • Provide increased police speed enforcement or use of a speed trailer; and
  • Changing the roadside environment to discourage high vehicle operating speeds."
  • (Synectics)
TLC strongly feels that lane narrowing (by increasing the width of the centre median) should be implemented both north and south of the pedestrian crossing to address the speed of approaching vehicles, as well as flashing amber lights indicating pedestrian crossing ahead.

TLC would like to see the pedestrian crossing light more responsive to pedestrian needs by giving pedestrian priority (rather than traffic priority) to reduce wait times.

We also suggest replacing the current on-ramp from Main West with a right-turn lane at Cootes and Main, to discourage the "highway mentality" of drivers as they head north into the pedestrian crossing.

With regard to the recently re-engineered McMaster Front Entrance, TLC can only wonder why this was allowed to happen - and demand changes to allow safe crossing for cyclists and pedestrians.

Specifically, TLC wants the turning radius for cars decreased, the crosswalks aligned at the corner (rather than mid block) and the islands extended toward the centre of the intersection to allow safe and direct passage for pedestrians.

In order to calm traffic on Main Street West, a road entirely devoted to fast flowing traffic despite the presence of several schools, TLC advocates one lane in each direction be designated a "diamond lane" for the exclusive use of transit, cyclists and taxi-cabs; a reduced and enforced speed limit of 50 km/h; and adjustments to the traffic light synchronization to discourage speeding.

"The changes must be substantial to redress the current imbalance that marginalizes the thousands of people walking and cycling in this area," says TLC's David Cohen.

TLC representatives are meeting with City staff, ward one councillor Brian McHattie and others from the McMaster community Friday, March 3 to discuss these issues.

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