Nova Scotia

Halifax man resorts to 'guerilla traffic calming' on crash-prone street

A Halifax man built a makeshift traffic-calming device using green bins after he got fed up with the high number of car accidents near his Robie Street home and the inaction of city officials.

Steve Mackay and his neighbours rolled green bins into the middle of an intersection on Robie Street

Steve Mackay has witnessed multiple accidents on his street, including one on Friday that was the last straw. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Steve Mackay was tired of seeing car accidents happen just outside the front door of his Halifax home, so on Friday he took matters into his own hands. 

With the help of his neighbours, he built a makeshift traffic-calming device by grouping green compost bins in the middle of the intersection near his home. 

"After years and years of inaction and repeatedly being told, 'There's nothing that can be done,' I just got fed up," Mackay said. 

He lives on the north end of Robie Street on a stretch of road some people call "the launching pad" because vehicles go so fast. 

"The cars going up, well, they have no reason to slow down," Mackay said. "There's no stop signs, no speed humps, no bumpouts, islands, anything like that."

There is a two-way stop on the cross-street at the intersection, and neighbours say the stop signs are hardly visible. 

Mackay has witnessed frequent car accidents since he moved into his house, near the intersection of Robie and Stanley Street. In June, one accident on the street was fatal

"We have a lot of crashes, over the last ... four years along these three blocks," Mackay said. "The city knows about at least 18 crashes now, including one yesterday."

Mackay said he is nervous to walk on the street by his house because he has seen so many cars jump the curb and hit people's houses, power poles and porches. 

Mackay said the speed cars drive on the street makes the accidents more severe. (Submitted by Steve Mackay)

Since 2017, he has been trying to reach out to his city councillor, Lindell Smith, about his concerns. On June 23, the day of the fatal crash, Smith tweeted back at Mackay, saying he has had traffic analysts do multiple reviews of the area.

"Traffic calming wouldn't work because it's on a bus route," Smith tweeted. He said he would bring up the issue again and see what could be done, but Mackay said he has heard nothing since. 

Mackay said his "guerilla traffic-calming" technique was effective without blocking the flow of vehicles on the road.

"It seemed to affect the cars coming up, they'd slow down to probably 30 kilometres an hour to navigate the obstacle, which the buses had no problem with," he said. "We got thumbs up from some bus drivers and happy honks."

On Wednesday, Smith said in an email to CBC that he spent some time with staff in the area of Robie Street between Livingstone Street and Lady Hammond Road in late September to discuss potential solutions.

"This comes after making various requests on behalf of residents and from concerns I raised as well," Smith said. "After having many assessments done in this area, I asked for us to take a more holistic approach to deal with the conflicts we are seeing in this area."

This is just one of the accidents Mackay has witnessed near his home. (Submitted by Steve Mackay)

Mackay said his act of civil disobedience wasn't intended to start a discussion, but to demand action from Halifax regional council.

"All of the dialogue has been started," he said. "We need a specific solution. I think something quick that could be done overnight would be to put in a four-way stop. I don't think we need any more studies on that."

Mackay said some city workers stopped to ask him and his neighbours what they were doing, but after they explained, the workers drove away. He said a police officer came to tell them to move the bins, but did not issue a written warning or a ticket.

He removed the green bins later in the day as he didn't want them to become a safety issue when it got dark.

Earlier this year, the municipality's budget for traffic calming measures was doubled to more than $2 million. That means about 100 streets will get speed humps or bumpouts to slow cars down. A further 225 streets have been assessed and await future budgets. Another 250 streets await assessment.

Changes in 'assessment phase'

In an email Monday, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality said "the municipality has identified the area of Robie Street, Massachusetts Avenue, Livingstone Street and Columbus Street for future road safety and pedestrian upgrades."

Ryan Nearing said the city received an official request for traffic calming in the area in January 2021.

"Due to the frequency of collisions, the municipality has taken the approach to improve the area road network with intersection modifications and speed mitigation efforts combined," Nearing said.

He said the area is currently in the "assessment phase," and designing "mitigation efforts" should take place in the 2022/2023 fiscal year.

He did not comment on MacKay's traffic-calming efforts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicola Seguin is a multi-platform reporter with CBC Nova Scotia, based in Kjipuktuk (Halifax). If you have a story idea, email her at nicola.seguin@cbc.ca or find her on twitter @nicseg95.

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