Perception not necessarily the reality regarding intersection in Harriston

Sometimes speed is a matter of perception says Wellington County OPP’s detachment commander.

Inspector Scott Smith was at Minto council March 22 to hear local concerns. One was the intersection of Highways 89 and 9 at the north end of Harriston’s downtown area.

Deputy-mayor Terry Fisk spoke on traffic matters – specifically one of the main intersections in Harriston. He said he was hearing about it in Harriston, and seen it himself.

He suspects it might be a problem in Clifford and Palmerston as well.

The issue, he said, is speeding on the main streets – especially in large trucks, especially at the stop lights.

“They see a green light, put it into high gear … and away they go. Something’s going to happen,” Fisk said.

He said it could involve an older person or someone in a wheelchair or scooter who has not looked both ways.

“What can we do about that situation?” Fisk asked.

Smith said the intersection referred to in Harriston, is “from a perceptional view, a very problematic intersection.”

Smith agreed the intersection is relatively narrow and on a hill. He explained that with hills, in a confined space, speed always appears to be greater than what it actually is.

“When we have conducted radar surveys in that particular area previously, we don’t find a significant issue with speeding. What happens is that a person is there, and a vehicle appears to arrive out of nowhere, and because the intersection is at the crest of a hill, there is the assumption that [driver] is speeding.

The reality is that person is travelling in the range of 50km/hour, Smith said.

“But whether 50km/hour is the appropriate speed to be travelling in that area is sometimes the question,” he added.

“When we look at similar issues we often look at excessive speed versus inappropriate speed.”

He said that in a school area with a 40km/hour zone, “at 8:30am when kids are running back and forth, 40km/hour might not be excessive, but I would suggest it might be inappropriate.”

He said, “Sometimes we run across the same thing in Harriston, Palmerston, and Clifford, where the vehicles are travelling at the speed limit or marginally above – but it is inappropriate because of the activity on the street surrounding it. It’s sort of like driving the speed limit in a snowstorm.”

Mayor George Bridge asked if the county would approach the OPP if it ran into similar circumstances.

“I know there are some people who’ve wanted to move that to a 40km/hour zone.”

Smith agreed, and said there were a few requests from council at other times to assist on long weekends.

“But its a short-term fix to a long-term problem,” Smith said.