Friday, May 11, 2007

Two stories, one issue: Cootes

Lift your lead foot as you travel Cootes
Speed limit going down to 40 km-h to prevent further accidents
Kevin Werner, Dundas Star News

(May 11, 2007)

Politicians have approved reducing the speed along Cootes Drive from 80 km-h to 40 km-h to prevent another fatal pedestrian accident.

The speed limit along Cootes Drive will start at 50 km-h in Dundas, increase to 80 km-h travelling along the hill, drop to 60 km-h for 325 metres after the pedestrian walkway, then dip to 40 km-h as the road approaches the crosswalk, continues until the Cootes Drive and Main Street West intersection. The speed limit along Main Street West is 50 km-h.

Politicians will vote on the public works committee's recommendation at their May 16 council meeting.

Bryan Shynal, director of operations and maintenance, said city staff insisted that instead of dropping the speed limit from 80 km-h to 40 km-h, there needed to be a transitional speed limit at 60 km-h.

The request to reduce the speed limit along Cootes Drive near McMaster University came from the McMaster University Student Union and the university after complaints that drivers were exceeding the posted speed limit.

Ward 1 councillor Brian McHattie, who introduced the motion, said earlier the idea is to create a "school zone" similar to council-designated school safety zones in front of elementary schools to protect students.

Pedestrian safety has been a particular concern since a 19-year-old McMaster University student was hit by a city of Hamilton truck in February 2006. The woman was struck at the pedestrian activated traffic lights on Cootes Drive. The city had constructed the traffic lights even though there had been no record of an accident at the location in the last 10 years.

McMaster University conducted a study that found between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. just over 3,700 individuals crossed Cootes Drive at the pedestrian traffic.

At the peak hour, between noon and 1 p.m., about 425 people crossed at the traffic lights. The study found there were a number of "near accidents" involving individuals and vehicles.

McMaster University is also investigating how to make the Cootes Drive area safer for pedestrians, including constructing a fence to "channel" individuals to cross only at the activated cross area and installing a speed limit sign on the Cootes Drive overpass revealing to drivers their posted speed.

Lowering speed not the answer to speeding: transporation rep
Craig Campbell, Dundas Star News

(May 11, 2007)

New speed limits on Cootes Drive won't solve ongoing speeding problems, according to a local transportation activist.

Dundas resident, and member of McMaster University's Transportation for Livable Communities, Randy Kay said Monday the group is pushing for a lane narrowing where Cootes meets a pedestrian controlled crosswalk, rather than new speed limit signs which received preliminary approval this week.

"The effectiveness of that is marginal, unless there's a lot of enforcement - which becomes an expensive proposition for the police and they could be doing other things," Mr. Kay said.

He said TLC has requested the two lane road be narrowed to one, then widen out again where Cootes meets Main Street West to maintain traffic capacity.

Mr. Kay believes that's a better way to slow down traffic because drivers will ignore new posted speed limits.

Council approval is expected next week after the public works committee approved an approximately 560 kilometre long 40 km/h zone on both sides of Cootes from Main West to the McMaster University parking lots.

The current 80 km/h zone will drop to 60 km/h for an additional 325 metres. Staff didn't expect the new speed limit signs up for at least four weeks.

Inspector Vince DeMascio, of Hamilton Police Services traffic department, said local police were not involved with the speed limit change.

A Speedwatch conducted on Cootes Drive in November apparently found no speeders on the two lane roadway.

Mr. Kay laughs at the suggestion that drivers on Cootes are following the 80 km/h speed limit, or 60 zone around the pedestrian controlled crosswalk just south of Main West.

"I think that's a joke. It's bologna," he said. "My experience as a driver and an observer is there's speeding."

His understanding of the Speedwatch program is that drivers can easily see the radar equipment and slow down at that time. Mr. Kay said the results are not a good indication of speeding.

He pointed instead to the 2004 study by Synectics Traffic Consultants for the City of Hamilton. That study led to the installation of the pedestrian controlled crosswalk on Cootes from McMaster to Sanders Boulevard in September 2005.

That study found "motorists were driving in excess of the speed limit and generally did not adjust their speed when pedestrians were observed waiting to cross Cootes Drive."

The study described speeding as "significant" and, in combination with high pedestrian and cyclist volume, creating a hazardous situation..

Synectics recommended lane narrowing and police enforcement to deal with the speeding problem.

On Feb. 13, 2006, a McMaster University student was struck and killed while crossing Cootes at the pedestrian controlled crosswalk. It was the first reported accident at the site in 10 years.

"If they're serious about making it safe, signs aren't the answer," Mr. Kay said.

"Signs aren't effective. They need lane narrowing."

[editorial comment - of course lowering speed is the answer, just how do we ensure lower speeds? a sign? or structural changes? TLC's position is: both]

No comments: