Residents on Othello Avenue say the 3D painted "speed bumps" the city put on their street almost three months ago aren’t slowing drivers down.
The virtual speed humps are supposed to create an optical illusion that makes it appear a real bump has been built onto the roadway. Drivers won’t feel anything while driving over them, but according to a press release from the city, studies in the United Kingdom have shown they help reduce speed. The thermal plastic speed humps are part of a pilot project that cost $3,500, which would be cheaper than building an actual speed bump.
Dawn Eady-Dowdall, a resident of Othello Avenue, said she hasn’t seen people slow down “at all” since the 3D bumps were painted on.
“It’s just as usual, the same speed as usual. I’ve never noticed anybody slowing down for them,” she said.
Othello Avenue runs parallel to St. Laurent Boulevard, behind the Elmvale Acres Shopping Centre in Alta Vista. It connects Pleasant Park Road to the intersection of Smyth Road and St. Laurent Boulevard. The traffic volume of the area also creates problems for the community, Eady-Dowdall said.
Across the street from her house, school buses pick up children and behind her house is Weston Park.
“There’s no crosswalk and there’s an entrance to the park right here. They have to run, kids have to run across the try to get in between traffic.”
According to the City of Ottawa’s collision data, seven accidents occurred on Othello Avenue or at an intersection with it in 2017.
In 2016 six collisions occurred.
The money for the virtual speed bumps came from City Councillor Jean Cloutier’s temporary traffic calming measures budget.
Each councillor has $40,000 per year to spend in their ward on temporary measures, like signs, speed display boards and flex stakes that go in the middle of the road.
Michael Fournier, another resident of Othello Avenue, said he believes stop signs need to be added to the street to really slow drivers down.
“You’ve got the signs about access to the park over there, you’ve got the skating rink, little kids all over the place,” he said. “Cars go back here, don’t care.”
“One death is too many,” Fournier said.
Cloutier, City Councillor for Alta Vista Ward, said he knows traffic on Othello Avenue is an issue, and it came up during consultation for the redevelopment of Elmvale Acres Shopping Centre. He said that’s the reason it was selected for the speed bump pilot project, but the city needs more data to decide if it will continue and be used on other streets past August 2019.
“I have spoken with residents who said they do see drivers slowing down and touching their brakes so we will be able to determine with data… how effective they are,” he said.
Othello Avenue will be a candidate for a complete street, as the city moves forward with a site plan for the shopping centre, Cloutier said. A complete street is a road that takes all modes of transportation into account, including cycling and walking, and gives each mode defined space.
Cloutier said he believes councillors would benefit from increased funding to their ward traffic calming budget as traffic is the biggest issue they hear about from residents.
“It is never enough, we need more education, we need more engineering, better engineering of the roads as we get going and we need to make sure the police are deployed properly and have an impact on driver behavior,” he said.
Cloutier said he has “heavily consulted” the community about where the money from the program is spent in the ward and on what types of measures. The neighbourhood is about 60 years old, he said, and streets weren’t originally built to accommodate anything other than cars.
“Streets are not only for cars,” he said. “Streets are for cyclists and transit users and pedestrians and we want to make it safe for all of them... That is always the thrust of what I try to accomplish every day when I come in.”
Ottawa’s other traffic calming measures
Traffic calming was a big issue across the city in the Oct. 22 municipal election. Glen Gower, councillor-elect for Stittsville, said it is in the top one or two issues he heard about while campaigning.
“Every neighbourhood has at least one street -- and often more-- that residents are really concerned about safety… it’s about safety for pedestrians and whether that’s kids walking to school or walking to the park, whether that’s seniors, there’s a lot of concerns.”
Heidi Cousineau, program manager for the city’s area traffic management program said the city devotes $700,000 from its capital budget to permanent traffic calming, in addition to the money councillors receive every year for temporary measures. This number is up from more “sporadic” funding in the past. Councillors’ money can be used for things like flex stakes and signage, but money for street narrowing, speed humps or raised crosswalks come from the capital budget.
Cousineau said the city currently has around 80 outstanding requests for area traffic management studies, which have to be done before permanent traffic calming is installed.
There is a wide variety of tools in the city’s traffic calming tool box, both temporary and permanent, according to Cousineau.
Speed bumps are mounds of asphalt that force cars to slow down when driving over them. Cousineau said they cost anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 to build depending on the number of humps going in and surrounding signage.
She said the city has found speed humps slow drivers down an average of five to 15-km/h on the road they are installed.
Flex stakes are brightly coloured metal dividers that narrow streets and keep traffic driving on the right side of the road. They are also used to separate bike lanes from traffic, like on Bronson Avenue.
Krista Tanaka, road safety and traffic investigation program manager, said the cost per flex stake is $212.68, plus tax. In 2014 the city found an average speed reduction of around 5-km/h.
Speed display boards
Speed boards are mounted on poles and record drivers’ speed when going by. Tanaka said they cost anywhere from $2,239.00 to $4,144.50 depending on the type of board and on average they reduce speeds by three to 6-km/h. She said they help most with stopping unintentional speeding.
“[Drivers] don’t realize they’re speeding but then they see their speed up on the board and they say ‘oh I’m speeding’ and then they’ll slow down.”
Tanaka said traffic calming is not a one-size-fits-all solution everywhere. Many factors have to be taken into account, including bus routes, emergency vehicle routes and traffic flow.
“If you do put the same measure in two different locations you may have different results because there are so many different factors that play into the speed at which someone decides to drive down the road.”