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Niagara Falls
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Chautauqua getting lower speed limits after three years of lobbying
John Scott, Weston Miller, Brian Crow and Shaun Devlin, shown in the middle of Niagara Boulevard in Chautauqua, finally got their wish for reduced speed limits in their neighbourhood. KEVIN MACLEAN
Coun. Nick Ruller says the town cannot let itself become "paralyzed" by strategic planning. EVAN LOREE

After three years of pushing, residents may be able to walk the streets of Chautauqua a little more safely. 

Council voted to decrease speed limits in the Chautauqua neighbourhood to 30 km/h, after hearing a presentation from residents John Scott and Shaun Devlin about ongoing road safety concerns in their community.

Coun. Nick Ruller suggested the town decrease the speed for a year and have staff collect data on the effect of the change, so council can assess its effectiveness.

Ruller suggested the roads affected by the speed reductions would include all streets coming off Circle Street, part of Niagara Boulevard and part of Shakespeare Avenue. Speed limits in the area are now 50 km/h.

“I’m biased towards action,” Ruller said when he pressed his fellow councillors for support.

He pointed out town staff have already collected some data on speed in the neighbourhood and while most people drove close to the limit, there were “some anomalies that were very high speeds.”

“Our town staff have speed minder data that reinforces the very data that they (the residents) presented in their position,” Ruller said.

“It’s not a singular resident coming to us saying, ‘Hey, I think there’s a problem,’ ” he said.

While Ruller acknowledged there was some risk that the data collected by staff would not support the anecdotal evidence of residents, he cautioned his peers about becoming “paralyzed.”

“At some point, we also have to take action.”

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa voted against the proposal.

“I would rather see us refer it (to staff) and have it come back,” he said.

Brian Crow, a member of the Friends of Ryerson Park, noted the Lord Mayor has previously been quoted that speeding is a “widespread” issue.

Crow said neither he nor his peers expected to wait three years for the result but he was pleased all the same.

Should things have stayed the same, Crow said there was “bound to have at some point in time some accident.

“Nobody wants that,” he said.

Scott told council the residents had been patiently waiting for the town to complete a master transportation plan, which would address the speeding concerns in their neighbourhood.

That plan is being updated and has yet to return to council. 

Meanwhile, Scott said, the community’s concerns with safety because of speeding cars have continued “and possibly increased.”

“Remember, the Chautauqua area is characterized by a series of very narrow streets,” he said. “They’re really laneways.”

The streets are well-used by kids, families and seniors, he said.

“It’s a dangerous situation.”

Matt Finlin, a Chautauqua resident who previously was vocal about the need for decreased speeds on Shakespeare later told The Lake Report it was “the right decision.”

“It’s nice to hear that the voices of the neighbourhood have been heard.”

This was echoed by Crow who said the residents were “pleased with their decision for sure.”

Finlin, father of two, said he wants his daughters to be able to run and play without being hit by a car.

“Sometimes progress is slow,” he said.

“Bureaucrats are always gonna be bureaucrats and there’s always gonna be red tape,” he said.

It was important to keep pushing to make a difference in your community, he added.

Coun. Erwin Wiens raised concerns that the cost of time and money necessary to study the impact of reduced speed limits in Chautauqua would draw attention away from efforts to do the same in rural areas of town, where Wiens said there have been fatal crashes.

“We have to start doing something,” Coun. Sandra O’Connor said.

She agreed with Wiens, however, that there was a need to prioritize efforts to improve safety in rural areas.

“Let’s try to balance all these needs,” she said.

evanloree@niagaranow.com

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