Friendly Streets was joined by Gibson-Landsdale (GALA) residents and community partners to conduct a street audit along Wentworth St. N. This location was chosen after we heard from a GALA resident who lives on the street that there had been 3 reported collisions between children and vehicles over 8 months (October 2017 – May 2018). Wentworth St. N. was converted from one-way to two-way last fall. The resident contacted the City to notify of the collisions and express concern about the safety of the street because there are important community services in the area, including a local elementary school, so there are a lot of adults and children walking or biking in the area. The city has begun a study of this location to assess speed and pedestrian counts, among other variables. City Staff will review the traffic speed and volume data collected to determine what, if any, next steps are required. We invited the City to join us on an audit to assess safety for people who walk and bike, as well as explore potential solutions that would make it more safe for vulnerable road users like children. We also decided to audit Sanford Ave. N. because a GALA community partner noted that it’s also a frequently used walking and biking route by school kids or residents.
We were very pleased that a Traffic Safety Technologist from the City was able to join us on the street audit. Through the work that we’ve been doing, we feel that it’s important to have the city join us on a street audit to hear from community residents and partners about the current challenges or concerns for walking and cycling in their neighbourhood. This increases awareness and understanding about mobility needs at the neighbourhood-level and gives community members the opportunity to share their experiences about how they move and travel.
We started the audit in front of Cathy Wever Elementary School and learned more about the collisions that happened over the past 8 months. The city’s Traffic Safety Technologist provided an update about the study that was being conducted and offered to share the results with the group after the audit. We decided to meet in front of the school because the location where the collisions occurred is near the schoolyard. As the children left at the end of the day, the collisions happened as they were crossing Wentworth St. N. Shortly before the school bell rang, we observed many cars beginning to park on the street in the southbound lane next to the sidewalk. Although signage indicated that parking was not allowed in this lane, it was apparent that parents were waiting to pick their kid(s) up from school and were waiting there until school ended. It was indicated that there had previously been enforcement and ticketing to prevent people from parking in the southbound lane, however it wasn’t consistent and did not have the desired effect of preventing parking. Clearly, there is a need for a space to park as parents pick up their children from school. As soon as the bell rang, we observed many children leaving the schoolyard and crossing two lanes of traffic to get to their parents’ car that was parked on Wentworth St. N. Many crossed between Barton St. and Cannon St. and did not walk down to the intersections to cross at the lights. It’s intuitive to take the shortest path to reach your destination, so it was suggested that some kind of pedestrian crossover is needed on Wentworth between Barton and Cannon because this is a natural route that people (both adults and children) are taking to cross the street. A pedestrian crossover, is a traffic calming device installed by the City, to enable pedestrians to easily and safely cross the road. The City will also review if a pedestrian crossover can be installed.
It was proposed that one lane of traffic could be removed from the street in order to provide one lane of parking with bumpouts on the side near the school and community services. The bumpouts would enhance traffic calming on the road, as well as potentially lead to reduced speeds. The bumpout could also serve as part of the pedestrian crossover, thereby reducing the distance that children would have to cross the street. School kids would also no longer have to cross two lanes of traffic to reach their parents’ cars. This option was discussed by the group as being a good option to explore further with the City and Traffic Safety Technologist. One community partner also noted that removing one lane of traffic could also provide space for bike lanes on the street. City staff will review the lane configuration on Wentworth Street to determine if improvements can be made – are two southbound lanes required to accommodate current traffic volumes and capacity?
Increasing signage to indicate that the speed limit is 40km/h during school times, as well as to enhance awareness that there is a school and other community services in the area, was also discussed. Currently, the 40km/h zone around the school extends a good portion of Wentworth between Barton and Cannon, however becomes 50km/h again near those arterial roads. The speed limit drops down to 40km/h again during school times on Wentworth St. N. near Cathedral High School. One solution that was offered was to have the length of Wentworth St. N. between Barton and King at a speed of 40km/h during school times. This would reduce the frequent changes in speed limit and potentially encourage slower driving along the entire street. Further studies from the City may need to be conducted to determine if this is feasible. The group will continue to follow-up with the City as to whether this solution can be implemented. Increased signage for parking and school zones was also encouraged by residents in this area.
Trucks are currently permitted on Wentworth St. N., which is not supported by residents. While on the audit, we observed many trucks driving down the street and passing by the school and community services. Residents expressed concern about having trucks drive by schools where children walk and bike or near community centres where people attend programs or services. It was identified by residents that trucks should be removed from Wentworth St. N. and diverted to other roads, like Burlington St., instead of driving through neighbourhoods and near schools.
At the intersection of Wentworth and Cannon, the group stopped to observe cyclists in the cycle track and to discuss the safety of cycling in the area. Residents mentioned that trucks often drive in the bike lane and that the knock-down bollards often get run over by trucks turning onto Cannon. This is a significant concern for cyclists who bike in the cycle track. It was also noted that the northeast corner of the intersection was tight – there wasn’t much room between the traffic lane and the sidewalk. So cars passed quite closely to our group, which felt unsafe. Particularly for children who often walk home with school friends or in larger groups. There was a crossing guard at the intersection to ensure that children crossed safely.
Two areas were flagged for zebra crossing, which are lines painted on the street that mark the crossing area. These locations are at Cannon/Huntley and Cannon/Madison Ave. These are common ways of improving crosswalks to better and more clearly indicate pedestrian space. We then stopped at the intersection of Sanford Ave. and Cannon St. to observe traffic heading north to Barton. With 3 lanes, it seemed like there was an abundance of space based on the relatively low volume of traffic at the time. As one resident put it, “Sanford Ave. is one of the most overbuilt roads in the city.” While we stood at the intersection, there were times when cars were only in 1 or 2 lanes at a time but never all 3.
As we headed north on Sanford Ave., we watched several groups of people cross the street at unprotected intersections between Barton and Cannon. Similar to Wentworth, people were using the shortest distance to reach their destination, and without protected crosswalks or a pedestrian crossover, this meant that they were crossing 3 lanes to reach the east side of Sanford. There’s geared-to-income housing on this side of the street, and one resident noted that a lot of kids who attend Cathy Wever live in this area and cross Sanford near Huron. Norman Pinky Lewis Recreation Centre is also located on this side of the block near Sanford, so tons of residents are traveling to this space for social programs or recreational services. Residents expressed a desire to have a pedestrian crossover at Sanford/Huron because it would easily and safely connect the recreation centre to Powell Park (located off of Huron) and to homes where many school children live.
Residents expressed a strong desire to have traffic calming increased in this area and to see improvements, like pedestrian crossovers, along Wentworth St. and Sanford Ave. to make it safer for children to walk or bike to school and the recreation centre. We’re very pleased that the city’s Traffic Safety Technologist was able to join us on the audit and we’re going to continue working closely with the city to ensure that the necessary street-level improvements are made to prevent future collisions and ensure safety for all.