Two weeks ago, in my 3Rs…Rants, Raves & Rumours column in the print edition of our newspaper, I wrote about resident frustrations about a pedestrian crossing at Parker and Sykes Streets that they feel is dangerous. In spite of an article I wrote a year ago about those concerns, and a pledge from municipal staff at the time to address the issue, the crossing remains a major concern for those who use it.
Near the end of this week’s meeting of council, a motion was put forward by Councillor Brandon Forder directing staff to install larger, orange, flashing overhead lights at the crossing which will be much more visible to motorists as they approach the crossing.
The crossing first became an issue last summer when residents who live near to and frequently use the newly installed crossing raised concerns with council. The residents contacted me asking if I would write a story, which I was happy to do.
A recently installed crossover at Sykes and Parker Streets has been cause for concern by residents of the neighbourhood, who say that rather than making the crossing safer, it has created new dangers.
“The issue is the new style ‘crossover’ doesn’t work,” resident Anthony Gullo told The Independent. “There is a bend in the road and all the signs are hidden. The lights on the side of the street don’t catch the driver’s attention as a traditional crosswalk would with the lights above head,” I wrote in an article published in early July of last year.
There is no question that the small lights located over the sidewalks are less visible to motorists, and I saw many argue that the flashing lights should be larger and ‘in the face’ of motorists in order to avoid a disaster.
The new crossing was part of a combined infrastructure project last year, which included a rehabilitation of Sykes Street in the area of Parker Street. Municipal staff noted last summer that prior to the installation, there was no formalized crossing at the location at all, suggesting that the addition of the crossing was an added bonus, but a bonus or not, it must be safe, and part of being safe is not just meeting provincial guidelines, it is actually making people feel safe, and if users of the crossing, along with some motorists, don’t feel that the crossing is safe, then it simply isn’t safe.
When I spoke to staff about the crossing last year, they noted that the crossing was designed and built to meet provincial requirements, using the Ontario Traffic Manual as a guide for the design. Though they pledged to improve signage on the approaches to the crossing, they also suggested that motorists needed to pay more attention.
A year later, the issue resurfaced when a motorist complained about the crossing on a local Facebook discussion page. Several residents participated in the discussion which highlighted the real and perceived dangers associated with the crossing, with many warning that it was an accident waiting to happen.
Following the Facebook discussions, the issue was raised at council’s July 10 meeting, and staff reiterated their view that the crossing was designed to provincial standards and was safe. Period.
As I wrote in our print paper two weeks ago:
A year later, the very same concerns are being raised by residents, but when it was raised at council on Monday, staff advised that the crossing meets provincial regulations, and that it is safe.
Personally, I have never had an issue with the crossing. I find that the advanced signage is bright, it is noticeable, and it provides warning of the coming crossing; at the same time, I can understand how folks, particularly from out of town, might not see the tiny flashing lights at the crossing had they somehow missed the more than adequate warning signs.
The solution seems simple to me, yet I am well aware that, particularly in the world of governance, things are rarely as simple as they appear. I think the answer is simply larger lights that are more ‘in the face’ of motorists.
Even if the crossing has been built according to provincial guidelines (which it was), even if the crossing meets provincial criteria (which it does), when it comes to the safety of humans, I think that if the folks that use it feel that it is not safe, then what’s a few extra bucks to install some bigger, brighter lights?
Thankfully, this time around, council was quick to address the issue, and they weren’t willing to mess around with research and reports from staff, they wanted it fixed yesterday. Several members of council indicated that they had spent some time at the crossing watching traffic, and they had come to the same conclusion as residents; the crossing needed to be made more safe, and some larger orange flashing lights that are common with traditional pedestrian crossing designs would rectify the problem.
Forder’s motion was supported unanimously by council, and so in the near future we should see some new lights installed at the crossing, making it more visible to motorists, and making area residents who use the crossing feel safer.
I have written many times over the years that progress in municipal governance can be painfully slow at the best of times, but when it comes to public safety, the public rightly demands solutions come quickly.
Hopefully, a year after concerns were first raised, we are on the road to fixing this crossing and making it feel safer for the folks that use it, often with children, as well as for motorists who will have no excuses once the larger orange flashing lights are installed right in their line of sight.