Suburban speeders spark safety concerns on side street-turned-thoroughfare
Temporary measures may be the only solution city can afford, says councillor
After a dog was recently struck and killed by a driver, residents in the west Ottawa suburb of Stittsville want the city to take immediate action to make their street safer, but a quick fix may not be possible.
Lloydalex Crescent looks like many suburban neighbourhoods in Ottawa — single family homes and garages face a wide street and the odd tree pops up every few houses. Snow-covered front lawns and driveways extend right to the curb.
Dog walkers, cyclists and children heading to school must navigate a road they share with vehicles, as there is no sidewalk.
Jamie and Jennifer Van Dusen say they have complained to city officials for years about cars travelling well above the posted speed limit of 40 km/h. When they learned a neighbour's dog was struck and killed on Jan. 20, they felt the need to speak up.
"It's pretty sad. It's only a matter of time until it's something worse," he said. "I'm no traffic expert but surely there's something that can be done."
Surely, except maybe not really. Lloydalex is not unique in its desire for safer streets and there's a long wait-list for traffic-calming measures across the city.
Suburbs everywhere built around the car
Pierre Filion, a professor emeritus in the planning department at the University of Waterloo, took one look at Lloydalex on a map and could see the issue.
"This is clearly a conflict point," he said. "Lloydalex, from what I can see, provides a shortcut." Drivers use the street to avoid driving on Carp Road.
Roads like Lloydalex were originally planned for local traffic only — the thinking was people wouldn't mind walking on the street with cars when drivers were likely neighbours who would respect speed limits and drive with care, Filion said.
"What we're talking about is the typical suburban subdivision, which is planned around the car," he said. "Close to the majority of Canadians live in that kind of development."
But when local streets become shortcuts for arterial roads or collector roads, people who don't live in the area start using them as thoroughfares. They are not always so respectful.
"Pedestrians don't have any protection," said Filion.
The best fix, he said, is adding sidewalks to protect people, and speed humps to discourage non-local traffic. Two expensive options that are unlikely to be added anytime soon, said Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower.
High cost of a real fix
It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to retrofit streets with sidewalks, Gower said, and speed bumps cost somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 each, depending on the project.
The councillor himself only controls a $50,000 budget each year for traffic calming and street safety measures for the ward.
"We do have [Lloydalex] on our short-list to have some temporary traffic calming measures installed this summer. We're just waiting on budget approval for that," he said.
Much of this year's ward budget, he expects, will be spent on a crosswalk outside École élémentaire catholique Saint-Jean-Paul II on Abbott Street.
Gower said his office will look at installing flex stakes on Lloydalex, which come with a more manageable cost of about $3,350 per location.
"Those tend to bring down speeds by five to 10 kilometres an hour, which is useful," Gower said.
Van Dusen, along with other neighbours CBC spoke to, said similar stakes along Kimpton Drive, which intersects with Lloydalex at a four-way stop, haven't improved driver behaviour.
"They haven't done much to slow down drivers racing through the stop sign," said Matthew Simpson on Monday.
Neighbours expressed support for more traffic tickets, and an automated speed enforcement camera. Seventeen of the cameras are installed across the city but, so far, only near schools.
As for whether neighbours would support sidewalks on the street, Jennifer Van Dusen thinks many would. With so many dog owners now on the street, she said many are fed up.
"Sidewalks even on one side of [the] street make sense to me," she wrote in an email.
Even with neighbourhood support, Gower doesn't expect Lloydalex to get sidewalks in the near term. There's already a long list just in Stittsville, including projects slated for Carp Road, as well as Maple Grove Road and Hobin Street, which is near a school.