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Monday, February 26, 2024
Editorial: Finding ways to address speed concerns
The Lake Report's weekly editorial. File

It took three years of research, writing and lobbying – and a lot of patience – but the work of the Friends of Ryerson Park finally paid off.

And a majority of the town’s elected representatives finally saw the merit in giving the Friends (and the community) what they had been asking for:

Reduced speeds on the streets and avenues in the Chautauqua neighbourhood, where there are no sidewalks or wide road shoulders, and most of the streets are really just laneways – about 13 feet wide.

Many driveways are wider.

Despite all those idiosyncracies, drivers in the area often exceed the speed limit. It has been 50 km/h up till now – the same standard, default speed limit as everywhere else in town.

With the reduction to 30 km/h on almost all the streets in Chautauqua, we hope residents notice a change in drivers’ behaviour as they cruise the neighbourhood.

Ironically, perhaps, some (though not all) of the speed-limit offenders are actually residents of Chautauqua.

Many of the visitors we see cruising through the area are so busy sightseeing and eyeing unfamiliar territory, they’d be hard-pressed to exceed the limit.

But familiarity can breed complacency.

When you’re just trying to get home, or heading out to run an errand and you’re travelling a street you’ve driven a thousand times before, it is not difficult to step a bit too heavily on the gas pedal and find yourself motoring along at 60 km/h.

Doesn’t make it right or acceptable, but it happens.

Now, with a one-year pilot project planned and maximum speeds set at 30 km/h, drivers and the community will need to police themselves and rein in their enthusiasm behind the wheel.

(Interestingly, William Street, an overly wide main road into the neighbourhood, is exempt from the reduction. An arterial road in comparison to the lanes of Chautauqua, William Street can be something of a racetrack thanks to its width. But that road is perhaps an issue for another time.)

Chopping the area’s speed limit to 30 km/h is a major coup that would never have happened without the work of residents Brian Crow, Shaun Devlin and John Scott.

And while council’s endorsement of the change was not unanimous, rookie Coun. Nick Ruller, the town’s former fire chief, helped convince a majority of his colleagues that it was the right thing to do.

Coun. Erwin Wiens made the point that rural areas of town – where there have been fatal mishaps – should not be ignored. And he’s right.

Council needs to find a way to address the concerns about speeding in rural zones – and not just throw up its collective hands and say, “We don’t have the resources.”

That’s easy and unfair. And, as Coun. Sandra O’Connor said, “We have to start doing something.”

The tougher decision is making it happen.

Chautauqua is not the only part of town where road safety is a concern, so we suggest councillors and town staff work together, devise a strategy (perhaps as part of the town’s transportation master plan, which is now being developed) and implement that strategy wherever in town is deemed appropriate.

That might mean a lower overall speed threshold across the board, or more traffic-calming measures, or permanent speed minders on some roads. We’ll leave it to the experts to figure out those finer details.

The only sure thing is that taking no action should not be an option.

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