As with a previous incident on Oriole Parkway in Elmira, the removal of traffic bollards on Whippoorwill Drive were a comment on Woolwich’s ersatz traffic-calming measures.
Some may decry the individual’s vandalism, or perhaps share in the sentiment behind the clearly illegal act.
As with the likes of traffic cameras and 30-km/h speed limits, bollards are at times rolled out as virtue signalling, a way for bureaucrats to quiet the small number of complaints. They’re “solutions” to problems that don’t exist, as readily available data make clear.
Woolwich officials, for instance, are routinely asked to deal with speeding traffic on this or that street. Almost invariably, data collected by monitoring show most vehicles travelling at or near the posted speed limit. There may be a few outliers, but they’re the rare exception. Officials know the problem isn’t speeding, it’s people’s perception of speeding. The claims are usually unfounded.
People are often poor judges of speed when it comes to passing cars. That’s likely exponentially increased when it comes to cars driving past their homes.
That’s not to downplay the concerns, which are particularly prevalent in neighbourhoods with many young children. Nor is that to say there’s never a problem: some roads do see cars travelling beyond the desired speed limit. But it’s incumbent on officials to differentiate reality from perception, making that the focus rather than doing something, no matter how unwarranted or costly, just to be seen to be doing something.
There are, of course, instances where municipalities have to act, cases where people are speeding. Putting in place a method to both judge public concerns about speeding and to deal with identified problems is what prompted Woolwich to adopt a traffic-calming procedure several years ago.
Traffic issues, particularly speeding, are a frequent source of public complaints received by Woolwich officials. Often more perception than reality, the topic is nonetheless in turn a familiar refrain. The process approved by council sets out criteria for judging if there is in fact a problem on any given street. If so, the process describes a list of potential remedies, from signs and pavement markings to more intrusive measures such as speed humps and lane reductions.
It’s a slow process, to be sure. Starting with an examination of the street to see if it warrants a study, the township then moves to traffic monitoring: speed information, traffic counts and accident data collection. If a problem is eventually identified, there’s then a two-stage response available. Stage one involves lane narrowing, painted lines, “slow down” signs, the use of the township’s radar speed trailer, and targeted police enforcement. Stage two would see the use of speed humps, raised crosswalks or extended curbs to narrow the roadway.
The traffic bollards aim to narrow the lanes to prompt drivers to slow down. They’re not needed if there really isn’t a speeding issue, and if parked cars are already serving to slow traffic. If that’s the case, a few center-line bollards to provide visual cues should suffice.
The primary intent of traffic calming is to reduce vehicle speeds, deter non-residential traffic from local neighbourhoods and reduce the incidence of collisions. There are instances where such measures are warranted, and even welcomed by residents. Otherwise, it’s best to tread lightly.
A cautionary approach also applies to the likes of bicycle lanes, which also create more problems than benefits when not used appropriately, as witnessed by most of the efforts in the region. As with traffic-calming, data are key: if the numbers don’t warrant taking action – and they don’t – then the idea should be dropped.
That’s just common sense, but usually in short supply among those making the decisions.