Monday, November 26, 2012

Crosswalk Safety: Part 3: Community Crosswalks

I was pleased to learn this weekend that the traffic authority has made the decision re-install a crosswalk they had recently removed at Prince Albert Road in Dartmouth.  This is actually the crosswalk that originally brought the issue of crosswalk removals to my attention.  It is in my neighbourhood, and I learned the hard way it had been removed while out for a walk with my one year old son a few weeks ago.  We arrived at the crosswalk to discover that while the sign was still there, the lights and markings were gone.  It left an extremely precarious situation.  The sidewalk ends abruptly at this location, and the closest marked crosswalk is three blocks away.   The crosswalk is frequently used by the nearby MicMac Aquatic Club, and during events at Lake Banook.  Cars often park on the shoulder here and cross the road to get to events.

Apparently the authority had underestimated the amount of pedestrian traffic at the intersection, a fact that was brought to their attention by the Club, and by councillor Gloria McCluskey.

As suggested in my last post, this raises a question about whether the traffic authority may have got their pedestrian counts wrong at other removed crosswalks as well.

It also points to the need for more community involvement in decisions regarding placement of crosswalks, for at least a couple of reasons.

First of all, the community will be in a better position than HRM staff to observe the level of pedestrian traffic, and identify the peak crossing times that have to be measured in order for the authority to apply their standard of twenty crossings an hour at peak hours.  The community can actually assist the traffic authority in doing their job.  In this case, had the traffic authority consulted with the community before removing this crosswalk, they would have avoided the cost of removing the crosswalk, and the added cost of having to re-install it.

Second, the community will also be aware of other factors that the traffic authority may want to consider, such as high numbers of seniors or children in the area, large distances to other crosswalks, and other considerations that may make the removal particularly dangerous, as it was in this case.

At the end of the day, the current process gives the community too little input into where crosswalks should be placed and removed.  This has created the current conflict, and led to a number of dangerous situations where crosswalks have been improperly removed.  The traffic authority needs to find a way to involve the community in its decision-making process regarding placement of marked crosswalks.  This way we can all ensure that safety is being put first.

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