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There’s only waste in rushing into roadway changes

People are often poor judges of speed when it comes to passing cars. That’s likely exponentially increased when it comes to cars driving past their homes.

Woolwich officials are routinely asked to deal with speeding traffic on this or that street. Almost invariably, data collected by monitoring show most vehicles travelling at or near the posted speed limit. There may be a few outliers, but they’re the rare exception.

That’s not to downplay the concerns, which are particularly prevalent in neighbourhoods with many young children. Nor is that to say there’s never a problem: some roads do see cars travelling beyond the desired speed limit.

Woolwich councillors meeting this week discussed issues related to Oriole Parkway in Elmira, where the township seems to have traffic-calming measures in search of a problem.

Bollards were installed earlier this year along the centerline and sides of Oriole Parkway, then quickly removed following complaints about a lack of parking along the road. Now, township staff are proposing to make the parking restrictions permanent, then return the bollards. This despite studies that show speeding isn’t really an issue, though the 40 km/h speed limit may be the problem: simply changing it back to the standard 50 km/h would alleviate any “problem” with speeding.

Residents see the parking restrictions as a non-starter. There doesn’t appear to be a good reason to inconvenience them. Moreover, cars parked along the side of a road serve a traffic-calming function without expense or annoyance to those who live there.

There are, of course, instances where municipalities have to act, cases where people are speeding. Putting in place a method to both judge public concerns about speeding and to deal with identified problems is what prompted Woolwich to adopt a traffic-calming procedure some five years ago.

Traffic issues, particularly speeding, are a frequent source of public complaints received by Woolwich officials. Often more perception than reality, the topic is nonetheless in turn a familiar refrain. The process approved by council sets out criteria for judging if there is in fact a problem on any given street. If so, the process describes a list of potential remedies, from signs and pavement markings to more intrusive measures such as speed humps and lane reductions.

It’s a slow process, to be sure. Starting with an examination of the street to see if it warrants a study, the township then moves to traffic monitoring: speed information, traffic counts and accident data collection. If a problem is eventually identified, there’s then a two-stage response available. Stage one involves lane narrowing, painted lines, “slow down” signs, the use of the township’s radar speed trailer, and targeted police enforcement. Stage two would see the use of speed humps, raised crosswalks or extended curbs to narrow the roadway.

The Oriole Parkway measures aim to narrow the lanes to prompt drivers to slow down. They’re not needed if there really isn’t a speeding issue, and if parked cars are already serving to slow traffic. If that’s the case, a few center-line bollards to provide visual cues should suffice.

The primary intent of traffic calming is to reduce vehicle speeds, deter non-residential traffic from local neighbourhoods and reduce the incidence of collisions. There are instances where such measures are warranted, and even welcomed by residents. Otherwise, it’s best to tread lightly.

A cautionary approach also applies to the likes of bicycle lanes, which also create more problems than benefits when not used appropriately, as witnessed by most of the efforts in the region, particularly the latest pilot project. As with traffic-calming, data are key: if the numbers don’t warrant taking action – and they don’t – then the idea should be dropped.

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