Thursday, December 06, 2007

slow it for safety

Transportation for Liveable Communities

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

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Transportation for Liveable Communities, a sustainable transportation working group of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group at McMaster University, would like to register our grave concern regarding a suggestion by Councillor Powers to raise the speed limit on Cootes Drive to 60km/h from the current 40km/h (Dundas Star News, November 30, 2007) in the vicinity of the pedestrian crossing at Sanders Blvd.

TLC would like to remind all parties that speed has a direct impact on the survival rates in collisions,

i.e. the higher the speed the greater likelihood of death in a collision.

The 40km/h speed limit was introduced to this area as a protective safety measure at a very busy pedestrian crossing, with a large volume of pedestrian traffic originating or having destinations at McMaster University.

TLC awaits the result of the speed study being conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the speed reduction, however, TLC cannot accept a decision that would allow lack of obedience to the posted limit to result in raising the speed limit. This would be rewarding law-breaking speeders at the expense of traffic safety. If we followed this logic, speed limits everywhere would reflect a dangerous upward curve resulting in higher fatality rates.

To alleviate the effect of velocitization1 on drivers going from an 80 zone to 60 to 40, we suggest reducing the maximum speed limit on Cootes from 80 to 70, and to ensure compliance, would support the placement a permanent speed camera near the crossing.

TLC has also advocated for enhanced traffic-calming measures, such as lane-narrowing and vertical deflection. If speeding continues to be a problem at the site of the crossing, TLC would like the city to explore the idea of a physically engineered solution rather than relying on signs to accomplish the required speed reduction.


An ongoing issue related to the crossing itself, TLC would like the timing of the pedestrian crossing light reviewed in general, with particular attention to a significant and unnecessary delay, primarily during rush-hours, for the pedestrian crossing to be activated after pushing the button.

TLC also requests a digital count-down display for this crossing, like the one used at Bay Street and King Street for example. Such display has become the standard in many Canadian cities, including Toronto.

Finally, TLC is very disappointed not to have been contacted by any agency to inform us of the existence of the speed study, despite TLC's ongoing and direct involvement in the issues of pedestrian safety at the Cootes crossing, having to instead discover the news via the media. TLC thus requests a print copy of the report for our records, and a commitment to be included in any further discussion on this important pedestrian/cyclist crossing.

For TLC,

Randy Kay

1 the phenomenon that driver's experience when driving at a high rate of speed for extended periods of time and the speed no longer feels as fast when they enter into a zone with a slower posted speed limit (Hamilton Police Service)

1 comment:

Governors Road said...

Hello Mr. Kay,

I've been asked to respond to the traffic signal related issues from your e-mail below. Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding

Since this signal was turned on in September 2005, we've made changes to reduce pedestrian delay and pollution while maintaining a safe operation. We use two different methods of operating this signal; one for peak periods when traffic volumes are high and the other for all other times when traffic volumes are lighter.

The delay you mentioned during peak periods is directly related to the co-ordination of this signal with the one at Cootes & Main. The close spacing between these two signals and the high traffic volume during peak periods dictates that we control when the signals turn green. Unnecessary stops and queuing increases fuel consumption and pollution as well as opportunities for rear-end collisions and red light running. To accomplish this, the signal has a cyclical "window of opportunity" where the it may stop traffic on Cootes and allow pedestrians to cross. Depending on when the button is pushed, pedestrians may have to wait from 6-80 seconds before receiving the walk signal. It depends on when the button is pushed and if the "window of opportunity" is open to serve pedestrians. This method of operation occurs only during the weekday peak periods which represents about 15% of the time. During the other 85% of the time the signal operates in a more flexible manner where the maximum delay is cut in half. This overall intent of this strategy is to strike a balance between pedestrian delay and pollution caused by stopping traffic.

We've conducted observations of pedestrian behaviour at this signal on several occasions. Many pedestrians don't follow the requirement to push the button and start crossing only on the walk display. Our observations include pedestrians that push the button but don't wait for the walk display, cross without even using the button or start crossing after the flashing Don't Walk has started. This last type of behaviour would likely only increase if we installed pedestrian countdown timers. For that reason, it's our opinion that they would not be helpful at this location.

I trust you will find this information useful in understanding our operational approach at this signal. Please contact me directly if you need more information.

Best regards,

Rodney Aitchison
Project Manager - Traffic Signal Systems
City of Hamilton - Traffic Engineering
Phone: 905-546-2424 (ext. 2067)
Fax: 905-540-5926