Riverside re-design angers residents who say it will encourage speeding

Residents of a stately neighbourhood on the Humber River say their street has become overrun with speeders and reckless drivers - and the city is about to make the situation much worse.

Speeding, reckless driving are major problems on historic Riverside Drive in west end

Sydney Reimer routinely checks traffic speeds near her home on Riverside Drive. She says 20 km/hr over the limit is common. (Lorenda Reddekopp/CBC)

Residents of a stately neighbourhood on the Humber River say their street has become overrun with speeders and reckless drivers - and the city is about to make the situation much worse.

Riverside Drive, a winding street that includes a house once owned by Anne of Green Gables author Lucy Maud Montgomery, is slated for re-development this year, including straightening, re-surfacing and the installation of curbs and a sidewalk.

Undulating, historic Riverside Drive, adjacent to the Humber River, is slated to be straightened and re-surfaced - measures that residents fear will exacerbate the problem with speeders. (Mike Smee/CBC)

"They're making a highway down our road," Sydney Reimer told CBC Toronto.

Here are some of the stories she and many of her neighbours tell about speeding and reckless drivers, who use the 1.6-km-long street to avoid rush hour traffic on the adjacent South Kingsway:

  • Reimer says her cleaning lady's car has ben hit while parked on the roadside three times.
  • Vera Bobson says she's had three different vehicles side-swiped in separate incidents over the years.
  • A car belonging to Bobson's next door neighbour was hit so hard it was a write-off, she says.
  • Another neighbour placed a huge stone block at the corner of his property to intercept out-of-control cars after a driver crashed through his front door.
Speeders and reckless drivers routinely damage vehicles - like this one - on Riverside Drive, residents say. (Sydney Reimer)

The situation has been so disturbing that Reimer now routinely stands on the shoulder of the meandering street armed with a radar gun, and says "60 to 65 is commonplace" in a zone where the maximum is 40 km/hr.

She's included those readings in information she and her neighbours presented to the city last year in an effort to have their road re-designed in a way that would slow down traffic, without upsetting the feel of the street, which Bobson said is "like you're in the country. It's not like an urban street."

'Journey's End,' the home on Riverside Drive where Lucy Maud Montgomery lived for the last seven years of her life. (Mike Smee/CBC)

Instead, she, Bobson and other residents say the city has ignored their suggestions —  backed up, she says, by transportation experts — that would maintain the street's signature curves and dips. 

Instead, she says, the city is planning changes that will make speeding an even bigger problem. They said those changes include straightening and widening the road in some sections, filling in cracks and potholes, re-paving and installing curbs and a sidewalk.

This huge stone block was installed at the corner of one resident's lot to deflect errant cars, after someone lost control on a curve and drove through his front door. (Mike Smee/CBC)

Coun. Sarah Doucette, who represents the neighbourhood, agreed "it is a highway now. We're trying to change that."

She said the city's re-development will discourage speeding by adding "pinch points," and re-surfacing the road with brickwork and raised intersections will "wake people up that that you may be going too fast, look at your speed." As well, the speed limit will be reduced to 30 km/hr.

But Reimer is unconvinced.

"Signs will do nothing," she told CBC Toronto. "People drive according to the condition of the road."

Winding, hilly Riverside Drive, is used as a short cut by drivers hoping to avoid traffic jams on adjacent South Kingsway. (Google)

As well, she says the city plan will destroy the street's historical significance. Riverside was originally laid over the 8,000-year-old Carrying Place trail used by First Nations and settlers, she said. 

"When they paved it they laid it right over top of the trail, with all the curves and rises. It has a lot more natural variation and that has never been altered, the natural undulations."

A plaque commemorating Lucy Maude Montgomery, who once lived on Riverside Drive, sits in a park on the street. (Mike Smee/CBC)

"It's a Discovery Walk. Beautiful views and they plan on putting up a solid barrier so it'll block the views of all the pedestrians."

The city plans to inform residents of the final re-design plans "in the next few days," and work on the road is scheduled to get underway in the spring.