More ‘zebra’ crossings planned at Mountain intersections
By Gord Bowes, News staff
More zebra-style crosswalk markings are going up at Mountain intersections this month as councillors continue their push to improve pedestrian safety.
The highly visible markings will soon be installed on Mohawk Road at Mall Road and Upper Wellington, and on Upper James at Fennell, said Coun. Scott Duvall (Ward 7, central Mountain).
Mountain councillors began pushing for changes after a senior was struck in the spring while trying to cross a busy east Mountain intersection. Vivian Web, 83, was hit May 15 by a vehicle making a right turn on a red light while she was crossing Mohawk at Upper Gage. She later died from her injuries.
Zebra-striped crossings, also known ladder style when they are bordered by existing perpendicular lines that mark pedestrian crossings, have been used in Europe for decades. The most famous zebra crossing in the world is probably the one in London, England, on the cover of The Beatles’ 1969 Abbey Road album.
“They’re new to us and we’re experimenting with them,” said Ron Gallo, the city’s senior project manager for signals and systems. “We’re being selective where we’re installing them so we can evaluate them at some point.”
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Upper Gage and Mohawk was a good place to start, he said, because of the significant pedestrian traffic volume and number of seniors living in the area.
Gallo noted several changes, including a red light camera, extending walk times and banning right turns on red lights, were requested at a July 4 community meeting called by Duvall and Coun. Tom Jackson (Ward 6, east Mountain).
The red light camera was already planned for Upper Gage and Mohawk and should be installed by fall. City staff are looking at banning right turns on red and other changes at that particular corner.
“It was made very clear to us that the residents want to prohibit those kinds of movements,” said Gallo. “We can do that, we just have to be careful not to over-restrict movements and create more driver frustration.”
Duvall said he applauds the efforts to improve safety and he’d like to see similar changes at other busy intersections in his ward. Pedestrian crossing times have been extended in the past at Mall Road and Upper Wentworth at the councillor’s request and could be lengthened again.
“I’m asking for a followup,” Duvall said. “If we need more time then we should be getting it.”
The councillor also suggested extending the zebra stripe format to school crossings on busy roads, such as Our Lady of Lourdes on Mohawk, but the city and a McMaster University traffic expert don’t believe such markings would help.
Nikolaos Yiannakoulias, who is currently studying pedestrian safety in Hamilton, said the pavement markings aren’t likely to be effective.
“I’m reluctant to look at that as a solution to the problem,” Yiannakoulias said. “Traffic controls have a better record of working.”
“What you really want to do is get the cars to behave properly,” he said, and signals and police enforcement can help achieve that.
Reducing speed is the best way to reduce injuries, he said. The severity of pedestrian injuries corresponds to the speed of the vehicle that hits them. Under 50 km/h, a person who is hit will likely survive, perhaps with only minor injuries, unless they are a young child or frail senior.
“Once they go over 50 km/h, the risk of fatality goes up very quickly,” said Yiannakoulias. “At 60 km/h, if you hit somebody they are probably going to die, or suffer very serious injuries.”
The city is planning to roll out more designated school zone areas this fall with flashing yellow lights and 40 km/h speed limit, said Gallo.
Coun. Terry Whitehead (west Mountain, Ward said all safety improvements and ways to make neighbourhoods more “walkable” have to be evaluated. He said he believes there should be more pedestrian crosswalks, which use red lights to stop traffic, between main intersections.
“We have to look at them for pedestrian safety and pedestrian ease,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense when they half to walk half a kilometre just to get to the church across the street.”
The latest pedestrian light is being installed in Ward 8 on Fennell Avenue West at West 2nd Street. It should be turned on in September, according to the city’s traffic department.
Fatality, injury rate has been falling
The latest statistics available from the City of Hamilton show there were 261 pedestrians injured while on streets in 2010. That is an increase of 20 per cent over the previous year and was the fourth highest for that decade, but down from the 1990s when there were between 280 and 320 pedestrians injured each year. There were seven pedestrians killed by cars in 2010, up from just two in 2009, although the fatality rate has generally been dropping since 1987.
In a report on pedestrian deaths in 2010 conducted by the Chief Coroner for Ontario, municipalities were encouraged to make changes to increase pedestrian safety, including:
• reducing the current walking speed assumptions and increasing walking times at pedestrian lights;
• shorter crossing distances (including addition of pedestrian crossing islands);
• pedestrian countdown signal timers;
• wider sidewalks to accommodate mobility aids
• improving markings at crosswalks.