Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Slow Down

I first noticed the "Slow Down Kids at Play" signs popping up in our neighbourhood when I was out for a walk a couple of weeks ago.  The design is more aesthetically pleasing than others I've seen previously and I didn't think much about it at first.

We live in a very community focused area of Toronto's almost gentrified "The Junction".  We are not a main road, but are often used as a bipass road by people trying to avoid traffic issues on larger streets.  Unfortunately many of the people who utilize our street to avoid traffic, speed.  A lot.  I'm talking Road Runner fast.  They also often skip the stop signs and plow on through without looking. It's an issue that I've always noticed but been particularly aware of since the minions have been mobile.

Letters, email and requests to city counsellors surrounding traffic calming, speed bumps and stronger speed surveillance in the area have gone out with little to no movement (to my knowledge) from the city's transportation department.  I understand that this is a lengthy review process and items like alternate transit and emergency vehicle routes need to be considered. Implementing traffic calming on one street or area could cause a ripple effect of applications for calming measures in the surrounding areas.  The City of Toronto website states that they receive 50-100 requests for speed humps (that's what the City of Toronto calls them) per year and install over 100-150 a year.

slow down kids at play sign

I also suspect when people start purchasing Slow Down signs for their houses it's because they are attempting to take matters into their own hands because they feel like they are not being helped. I have only once seen police monitoring trafffic speed on our street in my six years on our street and as a parent of two toddlers that terrifies me.

After a fatality of a little girl in Leaside Toronto earlier this summer the community has, with the financial support of some local car dealerships, produced slow down signs in hope that drivers will take note.  They are spreading around the city quickly.

When contemplating whether or not we would purchase a slow down sign for our house I began to research their impact.  Do they work?

The following are reasons I found in my research as to why many areas in North America do not approve Children at Play signs:

  • The generic message of the signs does not command sufficient motorist attention.  Others argue that the signs are in fact too distracting to motorists - If an unauthorized sign and cone caused a motorist to have an accident, this could lead to liability issues for those who placed the signs and/or cones in the street.
  • Most motorists are generally aware of the increased possibility of children playing in yards, driveways and sidewalks when driving in a residential street.
  • Some believe that these signs are inappropriate for public streets since they convey the suggestion that playing on the street is acceptable behaviour.
  • These may create a false sense of security to parents as to the safety of their children and cause less watchful eyes.
  • It is believed that most accidents involving children are not caused by driver behaviour, but by the unsafe actions of the children. 

What can we do about road safety and our kids?

  • Educate our children on road safety - this really is our first line of defence.
  • Contact the city and city counsellors about your concerns, multiple points of contact will draw attention to your cause.
  • Some areas of the US offer programs where you can participate in a neighbourhood speed watch program and borrow a radar dolly to educate people about how fast they are going and can record speeds.  Some programs will use this radar system to  locate the registered owners of the vehicles and send a letter to them asking for their cooperation in reducing their speed.
  • In 2012, Spacing produced a great article on traffic calming beyond speed bumps that included street trees, raised pedestrian crossings and authorized street games.  The article notes that in Toronto, "We have not really explored the possibilities of giving communities some space to experiment with their own lower-cost solutions for residential streets." This is something to consider in your requests to the city.

Do I think the signs are going to help create awareness?  Maybe.  I don't think it could hurt and at the very least it has us talking about road safety with each other and hopefully our kids.

1 comment:

  1. Your road is insane for drivers who speed like maniacs. I've nearly been hit countless times crossing from one side to another. When I'm out with the twins, I make them hold my hands tightly. I'm terrified someone will knock them down. What your road needs is a police presence more than just once - this Sunday, I was nearly creamed again by a fast-speeding black truck who ran the stop sign. It's scary, especially since more and more people are being hit by speeding cars in this city, and you're right, at least one was a child.