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Thursday, September 28, 2023
Mind Your Meters: Chautauqua residents skeptical of town’s neighbourhood traffic study findings
Brian Crow says a 50 kilometre per hour limit is too high for many streets in Chautauqua. EVAN LOREE

Niagara-on-the-Lake staff say Chautauqua does not have a speeding problem, based on information they collected from a traffic study done in the spring.

Some of its residents, however, disagree and say they believe the study doesn’t give a full picture of the problem in their neighbourhood.

In an email to Chautauqua resident Matt Finlin, director of operations Rome D’Angelo said traffic data the town gathered in April and May in the neighbourhood has “not demonstrated a speeding problem.”

The town assesses speeding concerns using guidelines set by the Transportation Association of Canada, D’Angelo said in the email.

An area is deemed to have a speeding problem when 15 per cent of the drivers surpass the limit by 10 kilometres per hour or more, he wrote.

According to data the town collected between April 17 and 24, the average speed of the fastest 15 per cent of drivers using Shakespeare Avenue was 47 km/hr.

From May 8 to 15, according to their data, it was 46 km/h.

This is below the residential street’s posted limit of 50 km/h.

 The data they provided from their traffic study, Finlin said, paints half the picture.

“It’s really disappointing,” he said, adding that data aside, he’s observed drivers “flying down our road at least once a day.”

Finlin initially reached out to Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa via email on April 21 with his concerns about speeding in his neighbourhood.

The lord mayor and Finlin exchanged emails on the subject, with Zalepa writing that he would consult with the town’s chief administrator Marnie Cluckie for updates on the situation in Chautauqua.

“I am concerned about the overall poor driving habits that appear to be exhibited in general, including speeding and careless driving,” Zalepa wrote to Finlin on May 16.

Cluckie wrote to Finlin on May 16 that D’Angelo would follow up with him and provide a comprehensive update.

It wasn’t until Finlin messaged the town again on July 17 that he received a response from the director of operations with information about the traffic study.

Finlin said the situation felt like “bureaucrats pushing things aside.”

Brian Crow, founder of the resident advocacy group Friends of Ryerson Park, said the data was “wrong, wrong and wrong.”

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Crow said, for people to be “travelling at 49 kilometres an hour down our narrow street.”

Crow lives on Wilberforce Avenue, which is narrower than Shakespeare but similarly has a speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour.  

“Not only should speed limits be reduced, there should be traffic calming measures put in place,” Crow said.

Crow said the 50 km/h limit is especially fast on Wilberforce, which is almost too narrow for two lanes.

Crow’s neighbour John Scott, also a member of the Friends of Ryerson Park recalls the advocacy group brought up the same issues almost two years ago.

“We found that excessive speed on these tiny roads was extremely dangerous,” Scott, a resident of Vincent Avenue, said. 

“We’ve got little kids on these roads and we’ve got seniors,” he said. 

Between the kids, seniors and lack of sidewalks, “it’s just not a place where you can have fast-driving vehicles,” Scott said.

Finlin previously suggested the town could use speed bumps and humps to slow down traffic, which he said “significantly forces the driver to slow down.”

A draft of the town’s transportation master plan, still awaiting final approval from council, identifies speed bumps as a potential tool the town can use to slow traffic. 

The plan also recommends that staff consider the option of a “town-wide speed limit reduction on local streets.” 

The municipality doesn’t set the 50 km/h speed on roads like Wilberforce. Speed limits for residential streets are standardized across the province in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act.

“No one ever went out, initially to Chautauqua, and said, ‘What should the speed limit be?’” said Shaun Devlin, another member of the Friends of Ryerson Park.

However, in 2018, the province amended the Highway Traffic Act to permit towns to set lower speed limits.

Devlin pointed out that other municipalities have already reduced speeds on residential roads town-wide, taking advantage of the legislative change.

One of these is St. Catharines, which took a blanket approach to the issue and reduced residential speed limits to 40 kilometres an hour last September.

The change didn’t come free, however: St. Catharines city staff stated in a report signed in September that the budgeted cost to install 40 km/h signs on all their residential roads was $262,600.

Scott and the other members of the Friends of Ryerson Park suggest that Chautauqua could be the site of a pilot project next year to tackle speeding.

The forested neighbourhood could be a good testing ground for a reduced speed limit in the community, Scott said.

“Let’s just drop it to 30-35 and see what the effect is.”

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