The following is a letter to Greater Sudbury's Operations Committee regarding a request for a decision on pedestrian traffic signals requested by two community organizations and Greater Sudbury utilities, for a location on Regent Street, midway between intersections at Ontario Street and McLeod/Hyland streets.
A copy of the City of Greater Sudbury's Manager's Report to the Operations Committee is available here.
Sudbury Moves has an excellent time-lapse video which shows people (most of whom appear to be employees of Greater Sudbury Utilities) using this crossing one winter morning. It's available here.
December 3, 2016
To: Members of Greater Sudbury's
Re: Request for Decision –
Pedestrian Traffic Signal Request – Regent Street at Junction Creek
I am writing to you today with
regards to an item appearing on your Committee's agenda pertaining to
a request for a pedestrian traffic signal on Regent Street, near the
location where Regent Street traverses over Junction Creek.
According to the Staff Report in front of you today in support of the
Draft Resolution, this request for a signalized pedestrian crossing
comes from Rainbow Routes Association, Connect the Creek Partnership,
and Greater Sudbury Utilities (GSU).
I sincerely hope that you will
take a moment prior to any vote at today's Committee meeting to
consider these comments.
Disconnect Between Request and
While the City appears to have
been approached by local trail organizations and the GSU to consider
a pedestrian crossing, there appears to be considerable disconnect
between what was requested of the City and the City's proposed
response to that request. It is apparent that concerns were raised
with the City by the trail organizations and GSU with regards to the
safety of pedestrians and cyclists with crossing Regent Street at
this location. After what appears to have been several years worth
of consideration since the original submission, the City's proposed
solution to this safety issue appears to be one which does absolutely
nothing to make the current situation safer for users of the Junction
Creek trail or GSU employees.
Posting signs urging pedestrians
to travel more than 400 metres out of their way just to cross the
road is not a safe – or sensible – solution to a matter of health
and safety. These signs will do little or nothing to change
pedestrian behaviour in this location. As the Staff Report points out
in a different context, pedestrians “do not go out of their way to
use traffic signals to cross the road.” With this in mind, there
seems to be a significant disconnect between the City's solution
(posting signs to advise pedestrians to use traffic signals located
about 200 metres away to cross the street) and the observed and
expected behaviour of pedestrians who desire to simply cross the
street in this location.
Even after the installation of
signs in this location, we can expect pedestrians to continue to
cross the road here – to get to work, and to continue their journey
along the trail. With this in mind, wouldn't it make more sense to
find a solution to the on-going safety issue which is likely to lead
to a situation of greater safety?
While the Staff Report does not
indicate when the request for a crossing was submitted to the City,
it can be surmised that it was at some point prior to June 10, 2014 –
the date that the City conducted a pedestrian and cyclist count at
this location. That means that the City has had this request before
it for a period of approximately two and a half years, if not more.
It appears that during the past two and a half years, the City has
not attempted to engage the public in any way, shape or form with
regards to this request for a crossing. If opportunities were made
to engage the public, it may be that I missed them – but I find it
unlikely that there would be no reference to public engagement in the
Staff Report had it occurred.
I find the lack of public
engagement troubling. Why did the City choose not to consult with
the very people who would be impacted by this decision –
specifically, those who are currently crossing Regent Street to
access the trail, or to simply get to work every day? It may have
been that, after engaging with the public, alternative solutions to a
signalized crossing might have been proposed, and a consensus on a
finding a safe way forward might have resulted.
Further, had the City actively
sought the input of the public on this matter prior to the
preparation of its Staff Report, I doubt very much that I would be
writing this letter to you, alerted to this issue as I was by a media
article about the Staff Report. I regret this last minute
submission, however this matter has only came to my attention on
Friday, December 2nd.
Pedestrian counts in unsignalized
locations are always going to be impacted by the fact that
pedestrians are choosing not to use facilities like the trail in this
location because of the perceived unsafe crossing. For example, I am
a user of the Junction Creek trail in and around this location, yet I
refrain as best as I can from using the portion of the trail between
Riverside Drive and MacLeod Street because of the unsafe crossing
across Regent Street. While I might be able to dodge vehicles in a
manner similar to what GSU employees appear to have to go through
every day just to get to work, when I have my three small children in
tow, crossing Regent at the trail simply isn't an option. That means
that my family and I are deprived of the joy of using the trail, and
are forced to walk along busy streets which are less friendly
environments for children – and indeed for all pedestrians.
If there were a way to cross
Regent Street more safely at this location, I suspect that there
would be more people crossing the street. While I understand the
provisions of OTM Books 12 and 15 are being followed here, it is hard
to imagine that more people wouldn't cross the road if they could do
so safely. Therefore denying the creation of a safe crossing point
because not enough people are using the crossing out of concerns
related to safety seems to be, to say the least, perverse.
Connecting the Trail
Not only is the trail in this
location a part of the Junction Creek Waterway Part – it's also a
part of the Trans Canada Trail – a trail that stretches across the
entirety of our nation. Increasingly, trails like the Trans Canada
trail are attracting tourists to communities which are lucky enough
to be located along the trails. It has been an on-going goal for the
past several decades to connect various sections of the Trans Canada
Trail so that trail users are exposed to a minimum of interactions
with motorized vehicular traffic. Not only does segregating trail
user from motorized traffic lead to a safer circumstance for trail
users, it leads to a more pleasant trail experience – one more
likely to be replicated by others.
Posting signs that encourage
pedestrians to cross the street at signalized intersections 200
metres away from the trail is not at all in keeping with a desire to
connect the trail – and indeed, it appears that the City will be
going out of its way to make life more difficult for trail users.
Further, while it will always be
that cyclists will have the option to use either the Junction Creek
Trail or a signed bicycle route along McLeod-Hyland and Wellington
Heights as a detour around this section of the trail – I think one
has to ask themselves whether creating a signed bike route for the
express purpose of detouring around an unsafe trail connection (the
Regent Street crossing) is working at cross-purposes to promoting the
trail as a safe and healthy transportation route for cyclists? If a
safe way to cross Regent Street at the trail were proposed, there
would be no need for this detour (although it may be that there
remains a separate need for cycling facilities along McLeod-Hyland)
Motorized Vehicular Traffic
I understand that there are
concerns with regards to the potential for northbound traffic to
back-up into the Regent/McLeod-Hyland intersection because
pedestrians are utilizing a signalized crossing to safely traverse
the street at some point mid-way between McLeod-Hyland and Ontario
Street. The Staff Report rightly points out that it is illegal for
motorists to block an intersection. Speaking as a motorist, I
believe that we can rely on motorists to follow the rules of the road
in a majority of situations that they find themselves in. This
includes not entering an intersection when there is no possibility to
clear the intersection prior to the light turning. That there will
be some motorists who, for whatever reason, choose not to follow the
rules of the road, is not a rationale to refuse to install facilities
for pedestrians to use to safely cross the road.
For consideration, the City
recently installed a pedestrian crossover on Brady Street at the
Shaughnessy Street intersection. Brady Street is classified as a
Primary Arterial in the City's Official Plan (while Regent Street in
the location of Junction Creek is classified as a Secondary
Arterial), and as such, we can expect that traffic volumes along
Brady are some of the highest in the City. The intersection of
Brady/Shaugnessy is less than 100 metres west of the Brady/Paris
Street intersection, arguably one of Greater Sudbury's highest volume
intersections. It's also less than 100 metres from the Brady/Lisgar
intersection. If the City were really concerned about the behaviour
of motorists blocking intersections as a rationale for refusing to
install safe crossings for pedestrians, it is highly unlikely that
the City would have ever installed a pedestrian crossover at this
location on Brady Street, no matter whether it was warranted.
Alternatives to Request
Public consultation might have
revealed that there may be alternative design elements which could be
built into a safe pedestrian crossing at this location. Design
elements such as a crossover with a pedestrian island refuge
mid-street would lessen concerns about traffic backing up through
intersections, as motorists must only wait for pedestrians to clear
the crossover between the sidewalk and the island, rather than to
clear the crossover in its entirety (which would take twice as long
if traversing an equal number of lanes, which is the case on Regent
Street). Yes, there would have been an additional cost to install an
island in this location, but at the very least, the City should have
explored this option (and likely other options) with those directly
impacted by the request for a safe crossing.
My Request To Operations
My request to Operations
Committee is to put this matter on hold, and direct Staff through
Council to engage with trail users, GSU employees and the public at
large, on a way forward to create a safe crossing for pedestrians who
are, and will continue to, cross Regent Street at the location.
Public engagement may reveal sensible alternatives which address the
safety needs of pedestrians along with any perceived issues which may
affect motorists in this location.
Please keep in mind that
pedestrians will continue to cross here without a signalized
crossing, putting their lives at risk just to follow a trail or to
get to and from work. It is unreasonable to believe that pedestrians
will detour the distance of four football fields to arrive at a point
directly in front of where they started, just tens of metres away.
It's not happening now (although some, like me, are avoiding this
area all together), and it won't happen in the future.
Let's acknowledge this issue and
resolve it in a way that leads to a positive community building
outcome. Let's make sure that people have a safe way to get across
the street at this crossing.
(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)