KENILWORTH – Council here is taking the first steps to improve local traffic and pedestrian safety.
This month’s open forum session on May 27 delved into the issue head on.
Conversation starters included looking at balancing traffic flows while keeping communities both walkable and bikeable.
Council also took a look at what criteria/traffic thresholds are required to initiate change in a given roadway.
Another question raised was whether the municipality should designate some streets where cars have priority and others where pedestrians or cyclists have priority.
Councillor Dan Yake said the item originally came to council as a result of the new Canadian Tire building in Mount Forest.
“As we all know, trying to get out of that driveway onto the highway is quite a mess,” he said.
Yake added “while this will be a pedestrian and traffic nightmare, there are other parts of the community which need to be addressed.”
He believed that technology does provide a number of ways to address pedestrian safety and traffic issues.
“I would like to see us move forward. As a council, we need to take traffic and pedestrian safety with the utmost concern.”
He said “We need to protect drivers, walkers, dogs … you name it.”
This could involve new types of signal lights, crosswalks.
“There is not a crosswalk in Mount Forest or Arthur right now where you could tell where the lines are visible.”
While some signage is better, Yake said there are signs which appear rusted or even shot at.
“These are things we need to address as a council.”
Yake said “we need to develop a viable plan where each and every year we are proactive in trying to make our community a safer place.”
Councillor Sherry Burke added, “it is not just the building of new safety features, but the repair of older items.”
She noted public works has a program in which the edges of older sidewalks in disrepair are painted to make residents aware.
“But a lot of people want to know when those sidewalks will be fixed as opposed to painted.”
Burke agreed it is time to either repair or replace those sidewalks.
“We talk about walk-ability and bike-ability of the community. I’ve had several people come in on nicer days and brought their bikes downtown. But there are no bike racks downtown.”
Burke said if the council also believes in the concept, when the municipality looks at street reconstruction in the downtown core, consideration should be given to a block or two back to ensure sidewalks are on both sides of the street.
Councillor Steve McCabe asked if traffic and pedestrian safety could work within the downtown revitalization committees.
Wellington North Mayor Andy Lennox asked if councillors were prepared for the potential traffic congestion which could be created by downtown crosswalks on Highway 6.
Lennox used an example of being unable to get out of a parking spot on the main street in Arthur because of the volume of traffic lineup at the traffic lights.
Regarding crosswalks, Lennox said, “in theory I love the idea, but they will impede traffic.”
He added the municipality gets numerous requests for speed reductions and crosswalks.
“What criteria do staff use?”
Yake responded, “I don’t really care if two guys going to the cottage have to wait for 10 minutes (extra) to get there because someone needs to cross the road.”
He said several communities in the area have used new technology at crosswalks.
“In my opinion, we haven’t done anything. We haven’t even painted the lines on the roads where there are sidewalks.”
He also suggested council look at the condition of the signs.
“In Mount Forest 80 per cent of the stop signs lean one way or the other. There’s a perception that this is something we are not taking seriously.”
Yake stressed that taking action does not mean everything needed to be done in one day.
“But we have to be active as a council trying to protect and make sure the people who walk, bike and drive in this community are safe.”
Lennox responded “I think we all agree, but where do we start?”
Yake suggested looking at what other municipalities have done to address traffic and pedestrian concerns.
“We don’t need to do it all at once and don’t need a Cadillac version (of a solution). Even a can of paint would help us get started.”
Yake said it is frustrating not to have a clear direction how to proceed.
Lennox stressed the purpose of the forum was for discussion.
Staff can always be directed to look into the matter further, he added.
CAO Mike Givens said there is a lot to consider and that it would be difficult to satisfy all groups – especially on existing roads which are defined by “a certain footprint.”
“We cannot double the size of the street to address all of the issues,” he said.
Givens later noted staff will bring a report to council regarding traffic at Mount Forest Drive and Main Street where the new Canadian Tire is located.