THUNDER BAY – There has yet to be a collision involving a pedestrian in nearly two years at the site of the city’s maiden crossover.
The traffic control device, the first of its kind in Thunder Bay, was installed on Algoma Street at Cornwall Street in November 2016.
In the decade prior, there had been four reported collisions involving vehicles and pedestrians. Since the crossover was activated, there has been a daily average of 134 daily crossings on the east side and an average of 138 on the west side.
There has not been a single collision involving a pedestrian and motor vehicle collision rates have remained within historical averages.
City administration conducted surveys that found the majority of people agreed the crossover made it easier to cross the street and that the mechanism improved safety, but most respondents felt speeds and traffic volumes were either bad or very bad.
City engineering director Kayla Dixon said the seemingly conflicting stances shouldn’t be taken as a sign that the crossover isn’t effective.
“The pedestrian crossing itself made it easier for pedestrians to cross and they felt safer crossing but still there are significant volumes of traffic on Algoma Street there and that’s one of the reasons why this location was chosen,” Dixon said.
“We see speeds in the 85th percentile of 45 kilometres per hour, which is well below the posted speed limit and below what we see on some streets within the city. It’s a perception as much as anything but certainly users felt safer using the crossover.”
Dixon said education efforts have been ongoing, as there was even some confusion around the council table about how drivers should proceed at the crossing.
“A vehicle is allowed to move through the crossing once a pedestrian has cleared the right of way. Whether the lights are flashing or not, if the pedestrian has moved off the street the drivers are allowed to proceed,” Dixon said.
“It is both the pedestrians and the drivers’ responsibility for the pedestrian to ensure drivers are stopped and for the driver to stop at the crossing if anyone is crossing, whether the lights are flashing or not.”
Subsequent crossovers have been implemented on Walsh Street at Selkirk Street, Simpson Street at Ogden Street, and James Street at Vale Avenue.
Coun. Paul Pugh, who pointed out that two of the crossovers are in his McKellar ward, wants to see them be more prevalent in the city.
“My observations and listening to residents is that these things are hugely successful,” Pugh said.
“These people feel they’re a big improvement of what we had before. So of course we can argue about perceptions and all that, but my take on it is that these things are a good idea and we need more of them.”
Coun. Aldo Ruberto, who insisted other countries have crossovers that are more minimalist compared to the ones in Thunder Bay, asked if there is a more cost effective approach to have more of them in place.
Dixon said the city’s options are controlled depending on where the crossovers are installed.
“The pedestrian crossovers are regulated through the Ontario Traffic Manual and there are specific signage, pavement markings and lights that are required,” Dixon said. “It depends on the level of traffic and speed of traffic on which level is required and they are not enforceable if they are not put in properly.”