Traffic Calming: HVRA Initiatives

Speeding traffic and wrong-way driving are recurrent concerns in Harbord Village, and  HVRA has supported several initiatives to combat them.

  • In Fall 2017, HVRA formed a Transportation Committee to diagnose and find solutions to recognized problems. Read about their work, with links to a substantial Traffic Study showing problem behaviour at our intersections.
  • Starting in 2013, residents worked for nearly four years to get speed humps on the first block of Major Street. That story is told below as an example of perseverance that led eventually to an improvement in the process.

Transportation Committee: Study of Wrong-Way and Speeding Drivers, Summer 2018

In November 2017, the HVRA Board struck a Transportation Committee to address the concerns about road safety voiced repeatedly by residents. Its guiding principles are as follows:

The role of the Transportation Committee is to promote Harbord Village as a Pedestrian Priority neighbourhood. We wish to make our streets safer and more welcoming for pedestrians and to minimize the risk to them from other road users. We want to provide safe passage for cyclists and to reduce the primacy of cars in planning transportation in Harbord Village. 

Within its first few months, the Transportation Committee had connected with U of T Engineering students to identify key problems and formulate options for dealing with them. It then followed through one of the suggested options by conducting its own study of driver behaviour at a set of intersections, then writing to our Councillor about its shocking initial findings on the high number of wrong-way drivers and the prevalence of rolling rather than full stops. In the last weeks of June 2018, the HVRA study was featured in several media stories, and its topic dominated the agenda of a City Council meeting. A sequence of HVRA News stories from June 2018 traces the rapid unfolding of events, including a Council order for installation of a new traffic light at Harbord and Robert.

The final HVRA Traffic Study was released in September 2018. It provides the full set of data gathered by 33 volunteers at 7 intersections over a 7-hour period on June 12, 2018. The figures are startling: 61 incidents of wrong-way driving, 52% of drivers failing to stop at stop signs, and 136 drivers failing to stop at the Harbord-Robert crosswalk when pedestrians were trying to cross. Analysis of the data along with the observers’ comments help explain variations in driving behaviour. They note missing signage at Brunswick and Ulster, point out the high number of U-turns at Ulster and Lippincott, and generally find more careful driving when pedestrians are present and when traffic volume is highest. They also notice the high proportion of cyclists going the wrong way and not stopping at stop signs. Both the graphs and the text will hold your interest!

This is its concluding page:

RECOMMENDATIONS

To enhance safety for everyone in Harbord Village, the HVRA Transportation Committee suggest there is an immediate need for:

  1. Enforcement of existing laws by:
    • increasing traffic police presence in the Harbord Village area
    • use of technology such as cameras
    • following through with those who report wrong-way driving
  2. Education of the public about existing laws, fine infractions, etc.
  3. Consideration of new street design and signage and introduction, for example, of clearly marked cycle paths, etc.
  4. A systematic and rigorous study of the issues.

Should other Resident Associations or groups wish to conduct a study for their local needs, HVRA prepared a “How To” document available at https://harbordvillage.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/HVRA-Road-Safety-Audit-How-To-v-2-2.pdf.

CONCLUDING STATEMENT

The frequency of traffic violations suggests Harbord Village to be an ideal site for a pilot safety audit and for testing the efficacy of various solutions.


Major Street Traffic Calming: The Long Story, 2013-2017

One of the first transportation initiatives came from residents of Major Street between College and Ulster. In 2017, after four years of sustained effort and sometimes contentious discussions, they finally obtained traffic-calming measures in the form of speed humps. Their long story is outlined below, with links to supporting documents.

  • April 2013: 25+ parents write Councillor requesting traffic-calming measures.
  • Fall 2014: After reminders, Transportation Department studies traffic patterns, proposes trial of seasonal “island parking,” adding 12 permit-parking spaces in 3 groups on west side.
  • April 2015: After repeated inquiries, parents’ group hears for first time about Transportation proposal.
  • June 2015: HVRA distributes proposal to all block residents with invitation to June 15 meeting, creates informational webpage; hosts block meeting with Councillor and Transportation engineer; 15 residents present express unanimous approval. HVRA summarizes views in letter to Councillor, then distributes revised diagram and explanation to all block residents, with invitation to contact Councillor with further comments.
  • July 2015: 20 other residents write Councillor objecting to proposal.
  • September 2015: HVRA calls second block meeting; Councillor notes disagreements, offers to ask Transportation for speed humps instead of “island parking”; general support.
  • September-October 2015: Residents gather 80+ names on petition for speed humps, sent to Councillor on Oct. 19 with letter of support.
  • November 2015: Councillor presents petition to Toronto / East York Community Council; Council instructs Transportation Department to proceed with speed humps.
  • December 2015: Transportation Department conducts mail-in poll to confirm support for speed humps, using outdated list of residents; 47% response rate, large majority in favour of speed humps—but 50% response rate required.
  • January 2016: HVRA writes letter to Councillor urging discounting of results because of flawed process; irate residents also write to Councillor in protest (read their scathing letters here). 
  • April 2016: Toronto / East York Community Council rejects flawed poll results (Agenda Item TE15.56), instructs Transportation (again) to install speed humps.
  • April 2017: Council calls for tenders to install speed humps; the work is included in the 2017 Transportation budget and work list.
  • July and August 2017: The signs go up in July, and four speed humps are installed in two days in August. They meet the new City standard of 75mm in height—high enough to be noticed by drivers, but not so high as to scrape vehicles’ undercarriages. Drivers noticeably slow down when they see and feel them.

HVRA Community Builders 2018: the Major Street crew

Major Street residents (some pictured at left, standing on a new speed hump) are justifiably proud of their persistence. They can also feel that their documentation of frustrations and inefficiencies helped change the process at City Hall.

Two other Harbord Village blocks have already benefitted from an expedited process:

  • Residents on Robert Street between Willcocks and Harbord, led by parents Gina Buonaguro and Cathy Merkley, obtained a promise of action after only a year of campaigning. Starting in May 2017, they polled neighbours and provided the Councillor’s office with a signed petition for speed humps, followed by several letters of inquiry. On July 4, 2018, Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) supported the Councillor’s motion to “waive the petition and polling requirements of the Traffic Calming Policy and authorize the installation of traffic calming (speed humps) on Robert Street, between Willcocks Street and Harbord Street.”
  • At the same meeting, TEYCC also voted to authorize “the installation of speed bumps on Sussex Mews, between Bloor Street West and Sussex Avenue.” (Speed bumps are harsher installations on roadways less likely to be used by emergency vehicles.)