Committee formed to address Cootes Drive crossingBy Craig Campbell (Dundas Star)
News Staff (Mar 10, 2006)
A new committee has formed to find ways of improving pedestrian safety, after the death of 19-year-old Heather Watson, who was struck by a salter truck while attempting to cross Cootes Drive on Feb. 13.
Randy Kay, a Dundas resident and member of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group's transportation for liveable communities working group (TLC) , said last week's meeting was positive.
He said no one at the meeting suggested removing the six-month-old pedestrian controlled traffic light, where Heather was struck.
Police are still investigating and have not said whether or not the traffic light had been activated, or if the light had turned red before Ms. Watson attempted to cross. Police have not charged the truck driver.
"We're happy the light is there," Mr. Kay said. "We just need something to make it safer."
He said those attending the first meeting of the committee included: Ward 1 city councillor Brian McHattie, McMaster University planner Linda Axford, head of security and parking Terry Sullivan, and Ed Switenky of the city traffic department.
Also there were representatives of Hamilton Police, the McMaster Student Union's Alternative Community and Transportation, and Synectics - the traffic engineering consultants that studied the Cootes crossing two years ago and recommended the pedestrian controlled traffic light.
"Brian (McHattie) suggested this would be the first of several meetings," Mr. Kay said.
He said the city has deactivated a link between the pedestrian controlled traffic light and the nearby Main West/Cootes Drive/Leland Street traffic light.
"That was done to make it more responsive," Mr. Kay said. "And it does seem more responsive."
A regular user of the Cootes crossing, he noticed the light sometimes took at least 40 seconds to change while pedestrians waited. Often, there wasn't any traffic on Cootes at the time.
Mr. Kay thinks this may have helped form the habit of some pedestrians crossing immediately after pressing the button to activate the light - before it turned red to stop traffic, or crossing without activating the light at all.
He's not sure McMaster students are aware of the change and may continue crossing against the light.
Sgt. Glenn Jarvie of the Hamilton Police was unavailable for comment before deadline this week, but said last week several witness statements were being reviewed.
Police are to meet with regional coroner Dr. David Eden to review the circumstances of the collision that killed Heather Watson, and determine if there are any recommendations to improve safety.
Randy Kay and TLC wants the city to act on traffic calming measures recommended in the Synectics report.
Mr. Kay specifically mentioned increasing the width of the centre median on Cootes to narrow the lanes, flashing amber pedestrian lights, and replacing the current on-ramp access to Cootes from Main West with a right-turn lane.
TLC also supports a lane in each direction on Main West completely dedicated to transit, cabs and cyclists, speed reduction to 50 kilometres an hour, and improvements to the new McMaster entrance on Main West.