By Tim Collins/Contributor
It was all the rage during the 1980s and ‘90s to streamline traffic flow by moving to the creation of one way streets, according to Steve Duck of the Sidney Traffic Improvement Group (STIG). But applying that concept to the one way section of Sidney’s Beacon Avenue was the wrong way to go.
“The whole concept was uninviting,” said Duck. “It was a concept made popular by traffic engineers who wanted to move as many cars as possible through a city as quickly as possible. That’s not what Sidney’s main street should be about.”
Duck pointed out that municipalities right across North America have been reverting back to two-way traffic in their commercial areas. That’s why the group has been lobbying town council to reconsider the choice made back in 1996 that led to the current one-way thoroughfare in the heart of downtown.
The question has been under review for some months. Early in 2013, a traffic study was commissioned by council and conducted by Victoria’s Urban Systems. That study was sent on through the Community Development Committee to council and included the statement that “the one-way section of Beacon between Fifth and Second Street was counter-intuitive and did not appear to enhance the mobility of the area.”
It was suggested that public consultation be held on issues which included the two-way /one-way question for Beacon Ave.
Council, however, declined to call for public consultation, instead voting unanimously to refer the issue back to administration for a report to be considered as part of the town’s Strategic Planning Session, slated for October 24.
That isn’t good enough for Duck’s committee of concerned businessmen. They are hosting their own business consultation at the Mary Winspear Centre on October 8, at 4:30 PM where they hope to generate significant support for the change.
“The current configuration is hugely unwelcoming to visitors,” said Scott Hoadley, a member of Ducks organization of concerned businessmen. He points to the fact that traffic coming off the Anacortes Ferry should be a prime source of visits to Sidney’s downtown businesses. “Instead we give them the option of turning left to go to straight to Victoria. If they do turn right and come to Sidney we slingshot them around our main street and out of town as fast as possible. It makes no sense,” said Hoadley.
Of course not all the literature supports the return to two-way streets. For example, the 2012 Thoreau Institute report on the issue concluded that “one way grids and one-way couplets are a superior method of moving people and vehicles” and that “the idea that pedestrian-friendly design can be enhanced by creating more pedestrian-deadly environments is just a planning fantasy”.
“The question for us shouldn’t be how fast we can move people down the main street,” said Duck. “We want visitors to slow down and to enjoy our town, and see what we have to offer.”
As for the contention that there may be an increase in pedestrian/vehicle collisions, Duck isn’t convinced. “What’s the first thing your mother taught you,” he said. “Look both ways before you cross the street … We’re a pretty bright group here in Sidney. I think we can remember that.”
Material made available by Duck’s organization estimates that the cost of reverting to two-way traffic would be approximately $60,000, and would include items like signage, line painting and the reconstruction of sections of corner “bump-outs”. The group maintains, however, that they are not proposing any changes to street parking, streetscapes or sidewalks, crosswalks or special events like the Summer Market.
“All of that would be maintained,” said Duck. “Change scares some people but all we want is to what’s best for Sidney. The question for us shouldn’t be how fast we can move people down the main street. “We want visitors to slow down and to enjoy our town, and see what we have to offer.”
A copy of the Urban Systems traffic study can be found at www.sidney.ca/Assets/Engineering+Services/Downtown+Traffic+Movement+Study.