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Thursday, June 20, 2024
Crossover in Old Town a pedestrian nightmare, residents say
Elizabeth Lewis is a regular user of the crossewalk at Niagara Stone Road and Anderdon Lane in NOTL. She and others say vehicles regulary blow through the crosswalk despite the warning lights and signage, putting pedestian lives at risk. RICHARD WRIGHT

‘I feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands,’ Elizabeth Lewis says after another close call

 

Niagara-on-the-Lake residents Helen Kopec and Elizabeth Lewis are afraid for their lives.

The pair are like many active NOTLers: they like the outdoors and enjoy exploring the community via its walking paths, trails and sidewalks.

That’s become increasingly stressful since a new pedestrian crossover was installed at the intersection of Anderson Lane and Niagara Stone Road, near the library and community centre in Old Town. 

“Every time I am here I feel like I’m taking my life into my own hands,” said Lewis, just moments after having to stop halfway through the crosswalk to yield to a passing driver.

This, she adds, is a regular occurrence. 

The 80-year-old lives in Garrison Village and meanders through the streets and paths within the neighbourhood en route to the community centre, which takes her through the crossover. 

She hasn’t felt safe about it since the Niagara Region installed it last September.

“There is nothing there that tells me it is OK to walk,” she said from the curb, “and there are no lights to tell the drivers to slow down.”

In fact, there are lights at the crossover, but the new style of structure — first used by the region in 2016, according to its traffic systems and operations department — doesn’t have flashing lights on the overhanging signage.

Rather, they’re only on the posts at each end of the crossover. 

Those lights are small and don’t face the pedestrian.

From a pedestrian’s point of view, the lights are barely noticeable and a person has to step aside and look directly above their heads to see them.

They are visible to drivers but are not prominent. And because they are near the shoulder of the road, they might not be readily noticed by drivers focused on what’s directly ahead of them.

Kopec, who also enjoys walking in the area, said she believes bright sunlight can cause visibility problems as well.

She has taken it upon herself to become a human warning system whenever she’s at the intersection.

“I am not passive about this,” she said. “I am standing there waving my arms. I am pointing to the light, I am pointing to myself and they don’t even slow down.”

Remembering back to a day when she was on her bicycle in the area, Kopec witnessed another pedestrian frozen in place waiting for a chance to get across.

“I yelled, ‘Doesn’t this drive you crazy?’ I engage everybody because it just makes me so angry. And they are in complete agreement. They are flabbergasted and astonished that this is going on.”

Above the standard requirements

After requests for information by The Lake Report about safety and design, Nick Rosati, Niagara Region’s associate director traffic systems and operations, said that the crossover goes beyond the safety measures required.

“Pedestrian Crossovers don’t even require those flashers,” he said, referring to “Ontario traffic manuals put out by the ministry (of transportation).”

“The enforceable portion is the black and white sign that identifies the pedestrian crossover. We added the flashing lights as a second level to bring driver awareness.”

Kopec disagrees that what is there now is above and beyond, and reiterated that the structure simply doesn’t have enough bells and whistles to make it apparent to drivers and pedestrians.

“It was poorly planned and is poorly designed. No question,” she said.

“If a pedestrian assumes that the driver has seen the light and starts crossing the street … they are in trouble,” she added.

Kopec also wonders why a “new” sign wasn’t installed in the area, similar to those placed when a new traffic light is constructed.

“That is one inexpensive thing they can do,” she said. “But they have to make it really bright and they have to keep it there for at least six months on both sides.”

A more “drastic measure,” she said, would be to “set up a camera like in Virgil that records when drivers go through when the lights are flashing.”

For its part, the region says the onus is on motorists.

“Our Number 1 goal is traffic safety for everybody,” said Rosati. “But at the end of the day it comes down to the driver. It is a judgement call from the driver’s perspective and if they have enough distance to stop then they need to stop.”

Better driver education and maybe police enforcement could help remind motorists to yield to pedestrians, he added.

“Niagara Region is committed to education about road safety as part of its Vision Zero initiative, which is focused on reducing and eventually eliminating serious injuries and fatalities on regional roads,” he said.

wright@niagaranow.com

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