From the Corners of my Mind – Downtown traffic

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by Jennifer Cranston

I spend a lot of time travelling in Essex Centre and I’d like to take an opportunity to point out a couple of often made mistakes that are putting people’s safety at risk.

The first is that many people think the two “No Left Turn” signs on Talbot are mere suggestions. They are actual traffic bylaws, and ignoring them is not only inconsiderate, but dangerous.

When heading north on Talbot towards Centre Street, there is a sign indicating no left turns are permitted into the parking lot beside the Party Discount Store. At least once a week I see people ignoring this sign.

The obvious problem with this is that it can snarl traffic at the Talbot Road/Centre Street intersection. The more dangerous problem that arises here is that motorists turning from Centre Street onto Talbot often cannot see that left turning vehicle until they are right on top of them. When people are rushing to make the light, it becomes a serious hazard.

My travels often bring me to the corner of Laird Avenue and Talbot Street. Sometimes more than once a day, as I sit at Laird waiting to turn right onto Talbot, I watch people ignore the “No Left Turn” sign at the entrance to the Southdale Plaza. (Southdale is the plaza containing No Frills, the LCBO, and Shoppers Drug Mart.)

I’ve seen many a close call at this spot as northbound traffic is not expecting cars to be turning into their path at this location. Nor are pedestrians expecting these vehicles.

These signs have been here since long before I moved to town, well ever a decade ago. It amazes me when I see people I know, people who have lived here all their lives, act like they are unaware of these rules.

Recently, I saw someone make an illegal left turn at the plaza intersection in front of a police cruiser. For a moment I thought that just maybe this town’s traffic bylaws were going to be enforced. I was disappointed.

The other dangerous situation I witness on a regular basis is the idea that two white lines on the road give pedestrians the right of way. This is false. Unless the crosswalk is controlled by a crossing guard or traffic lights, etc., pedestrians do not have the right of way.
We live in a small town that enjoys little courtesies that you don’t see in bigger towns. One of which is many drivers who will stop to allow pedestrians to cross the street. This is a courtesy, not a requirement.

It would seem that many pedestrians don’t understand that.

I have had long conversations with residents who get so frustrated when cars will not stop for them the minute they step onto a crosswalk that they just step into traffic, forcing motorists to stop.

I’ve seen the same residents do just that, risking their own safety and nearly causing vehicle collisions as people stop suddenly.

As Director of Infrastructure Chris Nepszy made very clear in the regular council meeting this week, un-controlled crosswalks merely indicate the safest place to cross the street, they do not give pedestrians the right of way.

The basic principal that we teach our children, to stop, look both ways, and wait until no cars are coming before you cross the street, still applies.

Understanding the basic rules and following them will keep everyone safer. When that fails, a little enforcement could go a long way.