Some families in Chautauqua are growing uneasy with the rising traffic speeds on Shakespeare Avenue as the town transitions from winter to spring.
Resident Matt Finlin wants the town to install some speed bumps to slow cars rounding the bend on Shakespeare Avenue, the neighbourhood’s only through road.
“Don’t let the death of a child be your call to action,” Finlin wrote in a letter to Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa.
Finlin’s daughters, Dylan and Willow, ages four and six, frequently use the street to ride their bikes.
“Last year and then again this year as the spring comes, as people come around that corner on the lake by Ryerson Park, they just gun it down the street,” Finlin said.
He said his daughters were out playing on their bikes last Thursday night when a driver rounded the corner and headed down Shakespeare at what he estimated was 70 to 80 km/h.
“People should not be travelling at these speeds,” Finlin said. “He was so close to clipping the girls.”
Finlin said the driver hit the gas after he shouted at him to slow down.
Fellow Chautauqua resident Tara Rosling said it’s odd that the speed limit is 50 km/h on Shakespeare Avenue.
“It’s clearly a residential neighborhood,” she said, adding that it is “disrespectful” for drivers to treat it as anything else.
She is not scared for her 14-year-old daughter Eliana, but pointed out residents often walk and bike on the road.
“All the streets in Chautauqua are super narrow and there’s no sidewalks,” Rosling said.
Chautauqua resident Mike Palmer says, “There’s no safe place to walk unless you’re walking on someone’s front yard.”
He has two kids, Norah, 9, and Russell, 7, and they are at the point where “they can walk to the park on their own.”
But kids don’t always see or hear cars coming, he noted.
“You don’t really feel the safest when they leave the house with the cars driving around so fast.”
In the absence of sidewalks, residents have to walk on the pavement.
All three parents agreed the town should lower the speed limit to 30 km/h, but Finlin doesn’t think posting the speed limit will be enough.
“Enforcement doesn’t cut it because people don’t care. These people know that you can’t drive 80 down this road,” he said.
He acknowledged it would be costly for the town to install speed bumps, though.
“I’m happy to lobby and do the work to try and make some change here, because it’s very scary,” he said.
Town spokesperson Marah Minor said it would cost the town $250 plus the cost of staff labour to install a speed bump.
“There are other practical solutions used for mitigation (of speed),” she said in an email to The Lake Report.
In an email to Finlin, Zalepa said he was an “advocate of increased provincial penalties for driving-related issues.”
He added that the Niagara-on-the-Lake council was working with the region on Vision Zero, a traffic safety project designed to reduce traffic fatalities and increase road safety.
The town, not the region, is responsible for setting and posting speed limits on roads under municipal jurisdiction, like Shakespeare Avenue.
Enforcement, however, is the responsibility of the Niagara Regional Police, which only provides NOTL with two police cars.
Zalepa told The Lake Report speeding concerns are “widespread” and not limited to the Chautauqua area.
But he said he has asked staff to investigate the situation.
“We’ll get some actual hard numbers on that. We’ll have some recommendations, including various measures, which could include adjusting speed limits,” he said.
He said he isn’t “a big fan” of speed bumps and would have to see an engineer’s report because he doesn’t think they are “effective.”
Zalepa said he noticed the Town of Grimsby using signs posted in the middle of streets to slow traffic.
It “creates an object in the road,” raises the awareness of the driver and causes them to slow down, he said.
“I did ask staff to take a look at that and how effective they’ve been.”
While not pitching it as a solution to the problems on Shakespeare, he said there were other streets that might benefit from them.
Grimsby started its in-road flexible sign project in 2022 to help reduce speeds.
A Feb. 21, 2023, report prepared by a Grimsby town staffer said the flexible signs were successful.
“Based on the data collected and reviewed, this method of traffic calming was shown to have a positive effect on travel speed within the Town of Grimsby,” the report said.
The signs have also been used in some Toronto neighbourhoods.