John Blais sits in his Memorial Avenue, Elmira home and rattles off a list of faceless speeders who pass by his house every day.
“The red Jimmy, the black convertible Mustang, a Sunfire, a silver 4×4. … It’s traditionally the same cars,” he said.
It’s a list that he and his family are well aware of. They’re repeat offenders who Blais alleges consistently drive well above the speed limit on the residential road in front of his house. Since moving to town from Ottawa about 18 months ago, he said that speeders have become a serious problem.
“Once they get to the stop sign they either roll through it, or some cars just burn their rubber.”His son, now nine years old, was struck by a van just a month after they moved in, and Blais said it was lucky the driver saw him in time and was able to come to almost a complete stop and not seriously injure the boy. Others who live on the street are concerned as well, Blais said, and have even gotten into confrontations with drivers who refuse to slow down.
“We’ve sat on the porch and watched people yell back and forth at cars ‘slow down, this is a residential area.’”
There are three stop signs along the length of Memorial Avenue, which Blais has nicknamed the Elmira drag strip, but there are no posted speed limit signs, and Blais and his neighbours are getting tired of worrying about their kids crossing the street. One nearby household even made their own homemade “50” sign and stuck it on the grass next to the road to inform drivers of the speed limit.
The problem that Blais describes is a common one throughout Elmira, and across Woolwich Township. The director of engineering and planning services agrees that speeding is a growing problem in the area, and said they take such concerns seriously.
“I don’t think it’s an epidemic, necessarily – we’re not getting swamped by complaints – but they are coming in,” said Dan Kennaley. “We have got a list that includes Breslau, Conestoga and West Montrose, so it seems to be all over the place.”
In 2011 the township conducted a traffic study on Memorial Avenue to assess the problem of speeding, but Kennaley said the results show the road falls well below other problem streets in the township. He said only about four per cent of all traffic on the road was found to be driving above the speed limit of 50 km/h.
In fact, the 85th percentile of northbound traffic was actually going under the speed limit – 49.74 km/h – while southbound traffic averaged 53.35 km/h.
Compare that to other problem streets such as Whippoorwill Drive where 55 per cent of traffic speeds and the 85th percentile of drivers travel about 70 km/h in the 50 zone, and there is no comparison, he said.
“Memorial is really not indicating a speeding problem,” he said. He presented his findings to council on Tuesday night, calling for a dynamic speed display to be installed on Whippoorwill, one facing eastbound traffic and another facing westbound vehicles.
Yet Blais argues that drivers saw the sensors and slowed down when they approached them, skewing the results.
He has yet to complain to police. But in an interview, Sgt. Sig Peters, who heads the Waterloo Regional Police detachment in Elmira, said his officers routinely respond to residential concerns by assigning radar cars to trouble spots around the township to try and deter speeding.
“If someone starts to use a route regularly and they see cruisers there, even if they don’t get stopped themselves they start to watch their speed,” he said.
Peters also said that more than 80 per cent of all tickets that cross his desk in the Elmira detachment are for drivers that live outside of the township: Fergus, Listowel, Guelph and Kitchener, for example.
Peters encourages all residents with a concern about speeding in their neighbourhood to contact police with the location and time of the speeders, and they will respond.
Blais has chosen to organize a petition to send to township staff outlining neighbourhood concerns. He said that while traffic-calming measures such as speed bumps have already been rejected by staff, something as simple as posting speed limit signs could go a long way in calming the traffic, a solution that Kennalley agreed would be worth looking in to.
“That is certainly a possibility. Absolutely we can take a look at that,” he said.
To sign the petition email firstname.lastname@example.org.