Sudbury

Sudbury 'takes road safety seriously'; City hosting national conference for road safety experts

Advocates for road safety are in Sudbury this week to discuss important changes communities are making to their infrastructure. The three-day Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals Conference started Sunday. Issues to be discussed include speed management, rural road safety and ways to reduce fatalities.

Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals holding 3-day event both in-person and online

A protected cycling lane in the City of Greater Sudbury. The city was chosen to host a road safety conference due to a number of road design features it's implemented over the past few years. (City of Greater Sudbury)

Greater Sudbury is playing host to delegates who take road safety very seriously. 

Although the city did bid to host the annual conference, the Canadian Association of Road Safety Professional (CARSP) said it chose Sudbury to host this year because the municipality has been proactive, by implementing road safety designs and active travel projects. This includes roundabouts and protected cycling lanes. 

The three-day event started Sunday at the Holiday Inn, and will run until Tuesday. About 200 people from across Canada and around the world are participating, some in-person and some online.

One of the organizers is Mark Wilson of Temiskaming Shores, a road safety advocate for northern Ontario.

He said the conference builds on successful momentum from the past decade of change, while also highlighting priority areas going forward.

2021 to 2030 marks the second decade where the World Health Organization and the UN Road Safety have worked together toward a worldwide initiative to reduce road fatalities by 50 per cent by the year 2030.

"It's really calling for the continued use of what we call the Safe System Design — designing safer roads and streets," Wilson said. This is also called Vision Zero, which was first coined by Sweden in 1997.

The Safe System Approach looks at how communities design their roads. Wilson commends European countries, Australia, New Zealand  and Japan, for implementing solutions successfully. 

"Humans make mistakes when we're on the road…when [mistakes] are on the road they can result in fatalities and serious injuries," Wilson said. 

"The design [of a road] makes a big difference on driver behaviour," he said.

Roundabouts are common safe system design features.

"They force drivers to slow down at an intersection and when there is a crash, they also reduce the kinetic energy that the crash has, and obviously reduces the severity of the crash."

Wilson is also a big proponent of 2+1 Roads, which are used in Sweden. A median barrier prevents head-on collisions.

The 2+1 design feature will be piloted on a stretch of Highway 11 in northern Ontario. The Ministry of Transportation has yet to announce the exact location.

For Wilson, many communities across the province have worked to make improvements.

"I think there's really a movement in northeastern Ontario and Ontario for that matter where a lot of communities are seeing speeds that are too high,"Wilson said.

"There are a significant number of complaints around that on residential streets, on streets in our communities, and so we are seeing some initiatives that are working," he added.

Wilson gives credit to changes the City of Greater Sudbury has made over the past few years, including the roundabout on Maley Drive.

"There's some protected bike lanes now that separate drivers in cars from cyclists, and the use of wider sidewalks and those types of things that separate the drivers from vulnerable road users — pedestrians and cyclists," he added.

Joe Rocca, the acting director of infrastructure capital planning for the City of Greater Sudbury, stands at a lighted pedestrian crossover in the city. (Erik White/CBC )

"I think we demonstrated to the committee that we're a forward thinking community that takes road safety seriously and is trying to make strives for a city of our size," said Joe Rocca, acting director Infrastructure Capital Planning for the City of Greater Sudbury.

Along with the roundabout, Rocca points out the city has incorporated pedestrian crossovers and will be adding red-light cameras soon. 

Other issues to be discussed at the conference include rural road safety and speed management. There is also a trade show.

"Initiatives obviously take time, and yet we're moving in that right direction," Wilson said.

"We have a long way to go on road safety, but we're getting there."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 16 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca

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