Little change coming to local traffic

Sidney’s traffic report indicates all’s well on the streets

Urban Systems was tasked with reviewing traffic movement patterns in downtown Sidney and possible ways to make it better.

Urban Systems was tasked with reviewing traffic movement patterns in downtown Sidney and possible ways to make it better.

Updated: Corrected information on the number of collisions per year at various downtown Sidney intersections.

A consulting firm hired to evaluate the Town of Sidney’s downtown traffic movement, says there’s little to be done over the next 10 years.

Urban Systems of Victoria was tasked with looking at traffic movement in the downtown core and how it interacts with pedestrians, what the safety issues are, determining business access, analyzing traffic signage and signal impacts and making recommendations for change — if any.

Dan Huang, senior planner for Urban Systems, told council March 4 that the steps the town has taken to date are acceptable for the next 10 years (the scope of time considered), with only minor areas needing some upgrading when it comes to safety and street light timing.

“The town has done a lot of good things here,” Huang said, noting the sidewalks are wide enough for pedestrians and scooters alike and there’s landscaping that is both attractive to pedestrians and helps keep traffic speed down.

The 10-year time frame, he continued, stems from estimates in population growth for the area, showing a 0.8 per cent growth rate per year. That translates, Huang said, into a one per cent traffic increase and a two per cent rise in pedestrians.

While traffic patterns — even the one-way configuration of a portion of Beacon Avenue — are acceptable, Huang pointed out some areas needing an upgrade.

Beacon Avenue and Seventh Street is downtown Sidney’s most dangerous intersection, with 64 incidents there over a seven-year period, or an average of nine collisions per year (ICBC statistics). Those incidents are mostly rear-enders caused by drivers going too fast off of the Pat Bay Highway into town. Huang said there is little to be done about that, as it’s attributed to driver inattention.

Crashes and other incidents drop off dramatically once drivers and pedestrians get past that intersection, he said. There are an estimated two to three crashes a year at other intersections in the downtown.

With little safety concerns and traffic patterns that appear to be holding up, Urban Systems consulted with the town and did come up with three options to enhance existing conditions and look ahead to when the town might be able to make — and afford — more significant changes.

The options range from little to no changes, returning Beacon Avenue between Fifth and Second streets to a two-way system with extra traffic calming in place to protect pedestrians, to creating a full two-way roadway along a refurbished Beacon Avenue with a unique surface texture. Huang said that the cost goes up with each option.

Huang added that more consultation with the business community and residents of Sidney would be required before the town went ahead with any significant changes.

Council noted that any changes they might want to make would have ramifications on side streets, parking availability and pedestrian use. They agreed more work would have to be done to flesh out a plan for the future.

After a lot of discussion, council voted to: accept Urban Systems’ report; implement split-phase signal timing changes at Beacon Avenue and Seventh Street; relocate pedestrian markings, stop bars and stop signs closer to Beacon at Second, Third and Forth streets, and; install shared-lane markings along Beacon and Fifth Street.