Environment featured

Letter: A request for urgent action to improve safety for vulnerable road users in Halifax before autumn

Subject: A request for urgent action to improve safety for vulnerable road users prior to autumn

To Brad Anguish, director of Transportation and Public Works, HRM

Cc:  Councillors Lorelei Nicoll, Tim Outhit, Sam Austin, Waye Mason, Lindell Smith, Shawn Cleary

Dear Brad and all Transportation Standing Committee members

I’m writing to express my deep concern regarding last week’s report to the TSC on our “Vision Zero” framework, which confirmed our lack of progress with implementing infrastructure changes that would make HRM a safer place to travel, particularly for vulnerable road users. For your information I also attach my presentation from last week’s active transportation committee meeting. I would be grateful if you could circulate this email to all persons responsible for delivering road safety in HRM.

Road user safety is possibly at an all time low in HRM following confirmation we lose 14 people a year on average to road fatalities, including five pedestrians within a period of just over one year.

We experience very regular incidents on our crosswalks especially at signalised intersections, which going from our police data account for roughly 40% of all pedestrian incidents over the past five years. This is due to the obvious danger caused by drivers turning left and right on green also right on reds throughout the period pedestrians cross on the walk sign. This confusion and conflict is rooted in the timing of the traffic lights and causes inescapable and unacceptable danger for pedestrians.

For six months or more of the year our crosswalks are barely visible, a hazard which contributes towards making nearly every crosswalk extremely treacherous to use.

Other basic infrastructure requirements are lacking including adequate lighting, roads which have a safe design speed for residential areas, pedestrian refuge islands, and crosswalk lights within driver sightlines. And despite advance yield lines being recommended for all mid block crosswalks in our own Crosswalk Safety Taskforce report of 2007, your department is reporting that we’re still not ready to implement these without commencing trials.

In terms of actual implemented improvements, your department does not seem to have much to report other than fluorescent strips on basic crosswalks (which account for relatively few incidents), some residential streets with traffic calming, ongoing trials, and measures which have no obvious quantifiable effect on road safety such as the stoplet on Spring Garden Road.

I’m writing to request that you take action to implement the following prior to October, which we know is often when incidents on crosswalks increase:

– Remove the ban on new crosswalk flag installations at RA5 locations. The flags are absolutely essential especially for children (who can be more difficult to see) given our local data which confirms drivers very often do not yield on sight of the overhead lights.

– Introduce a four red phase at all signalised intersections on the peninsula, allowing pedestrians to cross without the extreme and unacceptable danger of turning traffic.

– Remove all right on red privileges in downtown Dartmouth and throughout the peninsula.

– Throughout HRM, use the durable crosswalk paint trialed at Barrington Street, which your department reported has successfully weathered two winters, or implement thermplastic crosswalks.

– Trial road diets to slow traffic on fast and wide roads with minimal traffic, for example Lacewood Drive and Dunbrack Street. Currently these roads are very dangerous for schoolchilden, who often travel unaccompanied by an adult.

– Commission an external professional agency who can provide a report on the suitability of our current infrastructure for all vulnerable road users, including recommendations for improvements.

– Begin trials of pedestrian refuge islands and inexpensive bump outs at wide unsignalised intersections with unmarked crosswalks – see presentation slides for examples.

– Begin trials of vital basic safety improvements for cyclists at key conflict zones on our peninsula roads, such as cycle lanes leading to advance boxes at signalised intersections.

– Implement advance yield lines and signs at all mid block crosswalks which are three lanes or more wide.

– Submit a neighbourhood speed reduction request which meets provincial requirements for a suitable area. Going from our police pedestrian incident map, this should be downtown Halifax or Dartmouth.

I also request you review the 2018 Canadian Government’s Report “Safety Measures for Cyclists and Pedestrians around Heavy Vehicles” which sets out statistics and research regarding the danger at signalised intersections and how that can be significantly reduced by changing light sequences, and the considerable increase in trauma to pedestrians and cyclists caused by permitting right turns on red.

Entering into another winter without making real progress to improve safety conditions for our most vulnerable road users is unthinkable. This issue needs to be brought into a timescale which prevents serious injury and death, not one that is constrained by our internal capacity to complete the work required. Another winter of barely visible crosswalks after undertaking to trial durable paint back in May 2016 is simply unacceptable and falls below a minimum standard of service delivery and public expectation. If we do not have the capacity to progress the issues by winter internally, I request we look to involve an external agency to deliver safety on our streets.

With best wishes

Martyn Williams

If you walk, cycle or use a wheelchair and are affected by road safety issues, please join HRM Safe Streets for Everyone. If your local crosswalk needs a crosswalk flag, please contact the Crosswalk Safety Society. Please remember to report issues affecting your safety to our municipal authorities using the 311 service.

With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.

Subscribe to the Nova Scotia Advocate weekly digest and never miss an article again. It’s free!