Calgary

Polka dots painted on pavement may slow down speeders, experiment suggests

People driving through Bridgeland are slowing down considerably after the community and city banded together to add traffic calming elements — including colourful polka dots — to the popular main drag.

City eyes two more spots for similar projects in school zones

After a winter the Bridgeland polka dots are still vibrant and visible on First Avenue N.E. (Helen Pike/ CBC)

People driving through Bridgeland are slowing down considerably after the community and the city banded together to add traffic calming elements — including colourful polka dots — to the popular main drag.

Last year, intersection of First Avenue and Ninth Street in northeast Calgary had poor visibility and cars often sped through the intersection, despite it being a quiet street shared with plenty of pedestrians and cyclists.

The city extended the curbs with long lines of white paint and put up plastic traffic delineators. But, residents wanted to make it a little more visible, and safe. So, armed with a microgrant from Activate YYC — they took to the street with paintbrushes last August.

Volunteers gathered Saturday morning to paint polka dots as part of a traffic calming measure in Bridgeland. (James Young/CBC)

Ali McMillan with the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association says the polka dots have become a gathering place — especially since the community invested in new lighting and seating for the nearby plazas. 

"The whole package is causing it to be a real gathering space for the community," she said.

And the unique and quirky paint job has worked, according to the city.

Tony Churchill is the leader of traffic safety for the city, and he says drivers on the uncontrolled intersection, on average, are driving six to seven km/h slower.

Calgary community uses polka dots to slow traffic 0:38

"Which is a lot in traffic engineering type treatments," he said. "And we know that translates into a dramatic reduction in injuries that would result [if there was a crash] and that's really positive."

McMillan said the results are welcome news for community members — and not just because the avenue is more pedestrian friendly now.

"We're really happy that the city is open to innovation here."

The city's planning to roll out a similar treatment in two other locations, near schools to test how drivers behave at other intersections. 

City looking to test other intersections

The theory is that the colours and narrowing the road with posts make it seem narrower and draw drivers' attention to any pedestrians that might be waiting to cross.

The city needs to continue monitoring the pilot to ensure drivers aren't just slowing down because of some sort of novelty factor.

But with more testing, Churchill says this traffic-calming method might become more commonplace in Calgary. 

"This may become a tool that we could consider using when we're talking about changing our residential speed limits through bylaw," Churchill said.

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