A Port Moody pilot project appears to have been effective at calming traffic along St. George Street, although it wasn’t entirely popular with locals.
Temporary slow zones were installed between Buller Street and Albert Street from spring to late fall 2021 with the goal of encouraging more pedestrian and cyclist traffic during the pandemic.
The pilot project was meant to test ways to increase safety, something badly needed in the area, according to some on council.
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Coun. Diana Dilworth said some residents invited her to observe the street during an afternoon commuter rush.
“It was horrific how people were rat running and speeding and manoeuvring through what should be a nice community road,” Dilworth said.
The city identified the street as a potential neighbourhood bikeway in its 2017 transportation master plan.
Neighbourhood bikeways are recommended to have a maximum daily traffic count of 1,000 vehicles a day, travelling at speeds of no more than 30 kilometres per hour, according to the BC Active Transportation Design Guide; the City of Vancouver’s model recommends half that amount of daily traffic
Traffic volumes and speeds measured in 2019 suggested work was needed to make it a comfortable pathway for more active forms of travel.
Plastic delineators and temporary barricades were installed to restrict vehicle traffic at several areas along the street, which is located two blocks south of St. Johns Street.
Signage was added to the barricades, and garbage trucks were only allowed to pick up trash from their right side.
These strategies focused on getting drivers to slow down, reducing traffic during peak hours, and supporting outdoor activity.
Staff considered how the restrictions might affect property access and the use of the road for the pilot project. They noted the city often receives requests to only allow local traffic on particular streets, but they have no way to enforce such restrictions.
Information collected during the project was compared to data from 2019. It showed traffic and speed were generally reduced in both directions, with significantly less traffic in the restricted directions, suggesting high compliance, according to the report.
The pilot project’s strategies, though successful, were hit with several criticisms during the public engagement period, however.
While 48 percent of respondents agreed the barricades reduced traffic, more than half disagreed they encouraged reduced speeds or supported outdoor activity.
More than half (55 percent) said the barricades made travel in the area more difficult, and 62 percent said they would be returning to their old routes after they were removed.
Respondents’ main complaints were that the barricades were ineffective because people drove around them (sometimes in the wrong direction) or made unsafe manoeuvres, people dismantled them, and they increased traffic on adjacent streets.
Coun. Callan Morrison said many of the complaints seemed to stem from drivers being inconvenienced on their way home. He said council needs to weigh these consideration against the safety of children and pedestrians in the area.
Staff concluded the measures were “effective but unpopular.”
The report noted, however, there is general support for traffic calming measures, even if the pilot’s methods were not well-liked.
Future considerations would need to contemplate semi-permanent traffic barriers, as well as factors related to fairness, enforcement and safety.
“Rather than restrict access, pilot measures should render the driving experience less comfortable, which will slow traffic and deter non-local traffic,” the report stated.
Port Moody Police are unlikely to increase enforcement, but some features could automatically force compliance, according to the report.
More speed humps were identified as a simple solution, being described as inexpensive and effective at reducing speed, and familiar to residents.
Humps are less effective in controlling traffic volume, however.
Making the barricades semi-permanent would to stop people from dismantling them, and they could even become a community amenity, according to staff.
They suggested large planters placed on either side of the road at midblock locations would force vehicles to yield, while adding some vegetation for the community.
Coun. Amy Lubik introduced a motion that staff update its traffic calming policy in the transportation master plan, to include considerations for street murals, pop up spaces, or alternate road allocations.
She said an update would provide an opportunity to include the public, increase social connectedness, and remind drivers they are driving through a neighbourhood where people live.
Lubik cited municipal reports Saanich and Kitchener which reportedly showed that these types of road features reduce vehicle-pedestrian incidents by 25 to 50 percent.
“It really gives me a lot of hope that there’s other options that would work,” Lubik said. “It also .. co-benefits of the City of the Arts (branding).”