Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Traffic Calming in the Township

Yesterday, I noted that most people don’t like high-speed traffic rushing through their neighbourhoods. With this in mind, it is no surprise that in the Township of Langley there is a steady request for traffic calming to be implemented in neighbourhoods throughout the community. Traffic calming is meant to slow down traffic which reduces the risk of fatalities from pedestrian/cyclist and motorist collisions. Traffic calming measures general reduce speed and can be used to reduce traffic flow by making the route less desirable for thru-traffic.

As of today, there are 76 locations in the Township of Langley were people has requested traffic calming. Because of the large amount of requests and the fact that the Township only dedicates $100,000 per year for traffic calming, about two site can be traffic-calmed per year. The Township has adopted a policy to prioritize locations that receive funding. Most prioritized traffic calming locations are around schools and parks. If a located make it to the top two positions on the list, it must also get 2/3 majority approval by ballot of all people that live within 1.5km of the proposed traffic calming site. Such a high level of approval almost makes it impossible to get traffic calming implemented.

The top two sites for 2013 where 256 Street fronting Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School, and 212 Street fronting James Kennedy Elementary School. While the majority of people in both locations wanted traffic calming installing, it did not meeting the Township’s onerous 2/3 majority requirement. The Township will now be moving down the list to the next two prioritized traffic calming sites. In the meantime, students that walk to Coghlan Fundamental Elementary School and James Kennedy Elementary School will be exposed to higher speed traffic which is not a good thing.

The fact that people request traffic calming is a symptom of a greater problem with our transportation system. Traffic engineers have been focus for too long on building a transportation network that moves cars quickly from one area to another, instead of focusing on building a transportation system and community that connects people with the places they want to go (whether it be by walking, cycling, transit, or driving.) This focus on auto-oriented design causes all sorts of problems that impact human physical and metal health, the environment, the public realms, and even economic activity.

If our transportation network was more accessible, traffic calming would naturally occur. In fact even today, I’m surprised that sidewalk extensions that make crosswalk more visible, and roundabouts which reduce fatal collisions are considered traffic calming and not best-practice design. The Township of Langley is becoming better a building complete streets that support all travel modes and is starting to design more accessible neighbourhoods in Willoughby. These new area should be traffic-calmed by default.

Today, the vast majority of the Township’s transportation network is designed to move cars quickly. With a large list of traffic calming requests and the importance of making streets safer for all users, the Township should consider lowering the 2/3 majority approval required to implement traffic calming. The Township should also consider increasing funding to traffic calming, and as money is always an issue, spread out some road expansion project to free up funding.

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