By Sue Tiffin
Dysart et al councillors discussed the issue of speeding throughout the municipality – and how to slow down drivers who are doing it – after receiving a request from constituents for warning signs on Loon Lake Road and for a speed reduction on Wigamog Road.
At an Oct. 13 committee-of-the-whole meeting, Rob Camelon, director of public works, said he didn’t know if requests were coming forward due to recent traffic counts down in the municipality, but said, “it just feels like the floodgates are opening on people concerned with vehicles travelling perceivably fast on municipal roads.” He noted there is a policy addressing non-regulatory signage, but not for determining speed limits, or community safety zones.
Kathy Jolivet, the new president of the Loon Lake Property Owners Association, wrote to council to share that at the association’s AGM in September, a number of Loon Lake Road residents “had expressed concern regarding the high rate of speed of some travellers coming off of Hwy 118 heading to the government dock.”
“If you have ever travelled along this road, you will know that is a winding road with some tight turns and drops which makes walking the road very dangerous with vehicles travelling at a high rate of speed,” she wrote.
Members of the association were looking to place signs reading “slow,” and “watch for pedestrians” on the route, “to encourage vehicles to exercise caution.” The association already has the signs, according to Jolivet’s letter, and were seeking council approval for them.
Camelon noted the size and style of the signs are not those prescribed in the Ontario Traffic Manual, and said, “we’d have to have a real good reason not to follow it when possible.”
Additionally, Camelon said the annual daily traffic on Loon Lake Road is 53, with an 85th percentile speed of 50 kilometres an hour.
“… I don’t think there’s a speeding issue there, if they’re doing 50 kilometres an hour,” he said. “What I’m finding now is there’s a lot of perceived speeding on some of these roads, and maybe it’s because of the alignment of the road, maybe it’s because of the brush out near the road, I’m not really sure.”
Besides that, he was concerned about the efficacy of signage in reducing speed, and the problem of sign pollution.
“I don’t think it’s something the signage is going to fix, so I just want council to be very cognizant of that,” he said. “And if we do start allowing signs on every road, that people aren’t paying attention to, the sign pollution is very much a real thing. We don’t want to start clogging up our corridor with signage that people don’t pay attention to.”
Mayor Andrea Roberts asked if it was possible to do something similar to what Haliburton Lake Cottagers’ Association had done in the past, with the association paying for the signs, and the municipality paying for the posts and installation.
Camelon said it had been allowed in the past, but reiterated his concern with using signs that might not be effective, and that in the past they had offered repurposed sign posts but as they were running out of those, would need to start purchasing materials to accommodate requests.
“I’m not a big advocate of signs,” he said. “If people don’t want to pay attention to the big black and white signs that say 50 km/hour, they’re probably not going to pay attention to the other ones, but it shows an effort to get people to slow down, due diligence of some respect.”
Councillor Larry Clarke asked if it might be possible to look at what is being done in other areas, insofar as mitigating safety to determine if sightlines on the road, pedestrian usage and road conditions warranted the township being involved rather than the responsibility being incumbent on neighbourhood groups.
“I know some of the larger centres have policy for traffic calming but they also have engineering departments that administer and investigate it,” said Camelon.
Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy acknowledged the municipality had received “more and more of these” requests.
“We also have to remember these are all dead-end roads we have in the municipality,” he said. “It’s your neighbour that’s speeding, it’s not Joe Blow from Kokomo driving through to get from one area to another. It’s your neighbour, so perhaps the lake associations in the neighbourhood should start to advise their neighbours to slow down.”
Kennedy said the more the municipality is spending on improving the roads, the more the issue would arise.
“And perhaps a letter from council to the OPP asking for some presence for the $2.2 million a year we’re giving them to help the speeding on some of our side roads may also be beneficial,” he said.
Councillor Walt McKechnie agreed that lake associations, which he said send out important information, could help.
“I really think they should be educating people more and more, and really drilling down on them, to slow down,” he said. “… I should be told in a message that I’m driving too fast. I really think we have to educate. It’s the neighbours who you’re going to run over or run into. I can’t emphasize enough that we have to educate the people to slow down. Including myself.”
Councillor John Smith said that Camelon had “made the point that sign proliferation doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything,” and asked if a Haliburton Lake program approved by council this past spring had shown slower traffic as a result of additional signage there.
Camelon replied he didn’t have any data to suggest one way or another, though he hadn’t received further complaints about speeders in that area, which he said could be unrelated.
“If we don’t have data to support the success of these things, I’d be cautious about signage all over the place, until we can have some confidence they have an impact,” said Smith.
Though some roads were dead-end streets, Smith said others were roads potentially offering shortcuts from one location to another, or were used by trucks as part of business enterprises located on them. He said a planned community safety zone program should address what is an appropriate speed limit, road by road, so the OPP had something to enforce.
“I think we need to look at this more holistically, as opposed to responding to individual initiatives, where, oh, I’ll pay for a sign, and then they get popping up all over the place,” he said.
“I think the signs at Haliburton Lake have helped, but you’ve got to have common sense,” said McKechnie. “We all have to have common sense. You can’t fix stupid. We’re all driving too fast. I just think it’s gotta be something we’re told every day about in some kind of a message. I really think we’ve got to educate the people to slow down. These roads aren’t built to drive fast on and we all do it. There’s got to be common sense.”
The request for a speed reduction from 50 kilometres per hour to 40 kilometres per hour and additional signage on Wigamog Road to reduce the speed of drivers on the road between County Road 21 and the Minden Hills boundary came from Marc Beisheim and Jill Vasey.
“As a local resident who walks, runs, cycles and crosses this roadway regularly, we’ve observed that the number of other people doing the same is constant,” reads their letter, describing the stretch of road has being quite developed with over 100 homes and cottages, and two public beach access points. “This section of road also includes sharp corners with limited visibility and multiple properties with lake access that requires crossing the road from their dwellings. The roadway itself is narrow with no way to avoid sharing it with motorists.”
“This is not the first concern with speeding on municipal roads,” reads Camelon’s report. “A traffic survey was recently completed and shows that Wigamog Road has an annual daily traffic count of 334 and an 85th percentile speed of 55 km/h in an area posted 50 km/h.”
Councillor Wood-Roberts agreed with the letter.
“It is a very, very busy road, there is a lot of dense areas of population, and I think we should reduce the limit on that somewhat if we have that capability,” she said.
Camelon said the municipality would have to work in conjunction with Minden Hills to determine if they wanted to change the speed on the road within their jurisdiction as well.
Wood-Roberts said the speed limit of 50 kilometres per hour is quick for the narrow road.
“I just think it should be reduced,” she said. “I don’t drive down there a lot but when I do there’s a significant number of pedestrians, a lot of people have to cross the road to get to their lake access. There’s a school bus. I think it should be reduced.”
Kennedy said he’d be the first one to get a ticket, and said that pedestrians there too walk “on both sides of the road, three abreast, so there’s lots of criticism and complaints on both sides.”
“I’m hearing it’s a windy road, I’m hearing a mention of school buses,” said Camelon. “It sounds to me like there’s an appetite to develop some sort of policy on this, so we can actually check off some boxes, either yes it meets our criteria or it doesn’t.”
Again, he reminded council to consider what a decision on one road could lead to for others.
“If we’re going to do it for Wigamog, why not Wonderland? If we’re doing it on Wonderland, why not Peninsula? We’ve just got to be very, very careful how we start this.”
Roberts asked for a report on what would warrant reduced speeds, looking at the topic as a bigger picture to determine consistency through a policy for road networks rather than individual roads on a case-by-case basis. Wood-Roberts asked for information on traffic counts to be included in the report.
Camelon mentioned in the interim, he could pass traffic counts and information on to OPP, and the municipality could consider adding a line item for a paid duty OPP officer to watch roads on certain days.