Yet Another WTF Were They Smoking Decision from Council

Dumpster fireCouncil has decided to close Maple Street to vehicular traffic at the end of this month, to make the street safe for bicycles as a one-month trial.

Yes, I’m serious: they’re closing Maple Street, and it’s being done without even the pretense of consulting with the residents. But, in their typical manner of secrecy and deception, council will ask for residents’ feedback on the town’s website starting August 30, only AFTER the street is closed. Not before.

The story in CollingwoodToday noted:

The pilot project will run until Oct. 1, and will see barriers put up at each intersection from Third to Campbell Streets to reduce the amount of vehicular traffic traversing Maple Street… Signs will indicate the road is closed except to local traffic, and space will be left on each side of the barriers for cyclists and so local residents can access their properties by vehicle.

Really? Maple Street? Who cycles up and down Maple Street? And only on the lower 700 metres of it? Why direct cyclists AWAY from the downtown where the businesses could benefit from their presence? Of course, it’s a street where no one on council lives and could be inconvenienced by it.

(No bike lanes are planned for Maple Street: it’s a free-for-all zone for cyclists. And how can they plan anything for cyclists without taking pedestrians and pedestrian safety into account? Some municipalities get it…***)

What, no bicycles on Maple Street? Quelle surprise!

Why not widen our streets to create safe bicycling lanes on major routes? Why not enforce no-parking rules on bicycle lanes on Ontario and Sixth Streets? Why not widen trails and sidewalks to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians better and more safely? Install much-needed stop signs on busy streets to restrict speeding? Install desperately-needed red-light cameras at all traffic signals, and build the long-overdue traffic signal at High and Third? Why not install seasonal speed bumps on busy streets? Or reduce the speed limit on them? Why not make some core streets one-way as has been proposed numerous times since the 1990s?

Why not do something or even anything correctly to deal with the growing traffic problems here? Do it once, and do it right! Or is that only a phrase for something our mayor doesn’t agree with? Cyclists aren’t causing a problem: speeds and volumes of traffic are. Look to the source!

Oh, right: staff don’t recommend doing anything significant, so council nods its collective bobblehead and agrees. Council was presented with a “traffic calming” report in May that apparently offered no actual solutions, but had some platitudes and empty phrases (as effective at fixing things as are thoughts and prayers):

Staff is not recommending automatic speed enforcement, or photo radar, which can be used in community safety zones and will see tickets issued to speeding motorists.

Why on earth would Collingwood want to use technology and tactics that have proven effective in combatting traffic problems in so many other communities? Instead, our council — which knows everything — has decided to close a street that isn’t a major avenue for cyclists and doesn’t connect to the trails and pathways they use and doesn’t connect to any park, and to do it at a time when there aren’t any summer visitors around who might be cycling here, all to prove council is thinking outside the box. Outside the solar system, methinks. Far from the boundaries of common sense.

Did anyone in town hall consult the hundreds of RESIDENTS who live on those nine blocks of Maple Street before this decision was made? Did anyone discuss this with the high school that borders on Maple Street? Did the mayor do what responsible mayors are supposed to do and inform the local residents? Did he invite them to comment? Was there a public meeting to inform and engage the community first?

Apparently, none of these were done. Just another WTF moment from our ditsy, inept council.

Will this become the Awen Cycling Passage? Will council label select trees along Maple Street as “healing trees” so cyclists can stop and hug them to get their chakras opened up?

This ill-conceived idea sprang from the town’s 2019 cycling plan report, which noted a remarkably inadequate public engagement process:*

  • Workshop with the Trail Advisory Committee to obtain their feedback on cycling in the Town;
  • Online survey on the Town’s website to gather input from the public about cycling in Collingwood; and
  • Presentation to the Accessibility Advisory Committee to explore universal access considerations.

Does anyone else see a flaw in this? No mention of general public engagement, nothing about informing residents, a passive website survey (that I can’t recall being announced to the general public),** no openness and transparency. I’m of the antiquated opinion that public engagement should actually involve the PUBLIC and ENGAGEMENT.

Where were this survey and the report announced? In the ad pages of a flyer-wrapper few people read these days? Mumbled in a Zoom meeting by councillors busy eating their dinner while in council session?

The cycling report’s “vision” says:

The Town of Collingwood aspires to create a safe, well-connected and convenient cycling network. Reaching all corners of the Town and connecting with surrounding municipalities, cycling aims to contribute to this community’s development as a world-class destination. The network will be supported by policies and programs that promote a healthy and active lifestyle for all ages and abilities.

Maple Street isn’t a NETWORK. it isn’t connected to any of the town’s 60 to 70km of trails. It’s a residential street: it isn’t a passage to anything else. There are no businesses on the street, no coffee shops, restaurants, no stores to drop in at, no markets, no connection to community events or activities. Just the homes of several hundred residents who will be inconvenienced by this. The report says these networks should be:

  • Connected and Integrated;
  • Accessible;
  • Context Sensitive and Cost Effective;
  • Safe and Comfortable; and
  • Interesting and Enjoyable; and
  • Resolving any remaining gaps and discontinuities in the network through location-specific treatments.*

Can anyone tell me how this stretch of Maple Street accomplishes even ONE of those criteria? The report also says,

Attractive, safe and conveniently located end-of-trip amenities are essential to a successful cycling system.

But where are these on Maple Street? And the report adds,

The network plan must be accompanied by a complementary and comprehensive outreach strategy aimed at promoting bike use and fostering community support for cycling initiatives.

Yet no one was consulted, no one informed before the closure was announced. Where was the outreach? Where was the communication? As usual with council’s wacky ideas, that part was ignored.

Don’t get me started on the codswallop about being “world-class” — a bike through our scruffy, ill-kept parks, along our pothole-lined streets and past our rotting lampposts will disabuse anyone of that notion. Third-world-class, perhaps.

Why in September, when most of the summer visitors are gone home and will only be here on weekends, and when kids are back in school? Why run the test when most of the cyclists are not even in town?

And why start at Third? Or Campbell? Cyclists coming from the north will still have to work their way along busier unrestricted streets to get to Maple Street, including vehicles crossing town on east-west streets (and First Street: there is no traffic signal at Maple and First to allow safe crossing. And what happens to all the parking on Maple Street?

Emergency vehicles, waste collection, deliveries, transit and other services will also be allowed to pass the temporary barriers.

Who will police this? Will vehicles be stopped and searched for parcels or tools to make sure the occupants are delivering some product or service and aren’t just visiting friends? Who will guard the barricades to ensure that only residents drive the street during this test? The Maple Street Militia, demanding to see proof of residency and vaccination from every driver?

Almost every intersection on Maple street has a stop sign at the intersections. Will cyclists obey them, or will they expect to be able to ride through without stopping? The town hasn’t been able to control or stop people riding bicycles on the downtown sidewalk in the 31 years we’ve been here; why assume they can control cyclists on other streets? And will the town assume liability for any accidents caused by the expectations of cyclists?

Does council really believe that the continued presence of “[e]mergency vehicles, waste collection, deliveries, transit and other services” on Maple Street at the same time as cyclists is any less dangerous to cyclists than it was before the barricades went up? If the number of cyclists increases, doesn’t this make it MORE likely to have unsafe interactions with those vehicles?

According to the report, Maple and Pine Streets are supposed to get the following treatment, at a cost of more than $1.8 million (page ES-13):

  • Install share-the-road signs and pavement markings (sharrows) as an interim measure
  • Undertake capital road improvements to add bike lanes or create Bicycle Priority Street as the ultimate solution

The total cost of implementing the recommendations in the report is more than $9.5 million (ES-7), and that was back in 2019 when you could buy lumber for less than the price of gold. But despite the projected cost, council approved the recommendations in the report in October, 2019. But neither the mayor nor council couldn’t be bothered to engage the public to discuss this proposed expenditure. And they never told the public they planned to spend it. This is how they spend your taxes…

The report noted that “Maple Street has an average daily traffic volume of approximately 900 vehicles per day.” It then suggests this is a “preferred cycling corridor” because it has “[l]ow volume” of traffic. Since when is “900 vehicles per day” on a small-town side street considered LOW volume?

Assuming the majority (90%) of that is from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. (14 hours), I figure an average of almost 60 vehicles an hour, or one every minute in that time. Seems pretty damned busy to me. That’s 900 drivers that are being inconvenienced every day for that month by this new plan, too, and where will they go? Traffic will increase on the adjacent streets as a result of the closure.

Is that safe? But wait: the larger plan outlined in the report that council approved is to make this permanent in the future.

And if the count was 900 vehicles in 2019, you can be assured it’s gone up considerably since then. The CollingwoodToday story quotes it as 1,200 vehicles per day, but doesn’t identify the source for that figure (as any good reporter should). That’s a third higher volume than in ’19.

Traffic in Collingwood has increased dramatically of late and is only getting worse. So instead of looking at ways to manage, to slow, to control, and to calm that rising traffic, council decides to impede its flow to accommodate some vaguely-defined cyclists who have never made any collective noise asking for Maple Street to be their corridor. What a dumpster fire.

The report also notes with risible understatement that the Maple Street intersection with First Street has no traffic signal.  This, the writers acknowledge, makes “crossings of this busy highway challenging at these locations.” Really? Challenging for cyclists? How about life-threatening.

At times, First Street is busier than many downtown Toronto streets most of the time and cars are challenged to make right-hand turns onto it, let alone left-hand turns or trying to cross it entirely. But there’s no mention from council about installing a traffic signal to make this street closure safer.

I’ve been told that if you drive on a closed road and have an accident your insurance doesn’t cover the damage because, duh, you were on a closed road. How will this closure affect the insurance coverage of those who need to use it? Will the municipality assume all liability for such accidents?

What happens to drivers travelling west on Fair Street? It dead-ends at Maple. Will they have to turn around and go back to Hurontario? How will residents at the west end of Fair Street feel about cars turning around in their driveways or on their nicely cut boulevard? Was any thought given to this?

As fellow blogger Chris Potts wrote recently:

What is this Town coming too, I am truly disgusted in this pilot project, I would suggest that we try this project on every street that any member of council lives on.
Quit wasting money on all these stupid pilot projects and fix the streets and sidewalks in the town, fix the old infrastructure, show that you care about the people of Collingwood who pay taxes with hard earned money.

I agree, Chris: our council is spinning its wheels coming up with daft ideas instead of managing the things that matter. Our town is falling apart and they don’t seem to care. But then, none of them were elected for their intellectual prowess, let alone their intention to do right for the community. They were elected to office solely because of their unflinching loyalty to their Great Leader (who plans to abandon them and his responsibilities to the town and his office next year to run for MPP. And they can’t see how he gulled them).

Collingwood deserves better

~~~~~

* Ignore for the moment the ungrammatical and inappropriate use of capitalization and punctuation throughout the report; clearly, no one edited it for language or style. Either that, or it was written by someone unfamiliar with the basic rules of writing.

** Web site surveys are passive, not active, methods of garnering public opinion and are inadequate for the purpose. They can be easily manipulated by interest groups, and seldom have controls to limit access to actual residents. They are the lazy way of gathering data, and insufficient for determining even the most modest policy. They are frequently used by bureaucrats or politicians who don’t actually want to have to interact with the public.

*** From one report (and there are many others available online):

…the boulevard should be long enough to facilitate trips of two to five miles to ensure its utility. Amongst the elements used to create bicycle boulevards (reported in the 2009 document Fundamentals of Bicycle Boulevard Planning and Design) are:
? Signage (wayfinding and warning signs);
? Bicycle prioritization elements (stop signs on cross streets, pavement markings);
? Intersection treatments (bike boxes, bicycle activated signals, crossing islands);
? Traffic-calming elements (traffic circles, speed tables, chicanes); and
? Traffic reduction (non-motorized only crossings).

How many of these will be implemented along Maple Street?

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4 Comments

  1. It was pointed out to me after this was published that the reason for closure this may far simpler than the inept thrashing I suggest: Mayor Brian Saunderson likes to cycle and wanted a clear street not far from his own house to cycle on. He is likely the only one among them who cycles regularly. Let me know if you see him (or other councillors) riding up and down Maple Street, so we’ll know better if this was the reason.

  2. I think one of the reasons for the collective disorganization and ineptitude of council that has resulted in a succession of wacky, nonsensical ideas like the one described above is because they look to their Great Leader for guidance and he has neither the talents, the intellect, the experience, nor the interest in leading, let alone doing what is right for Collingwood. He dictates at times, but never leads. Without being given the freedom to think for themselves by the Great Leader, council members raise no questions, don’t explore the logic or the reasons behind ideas, don’t look beyond the motion to see the consequences or even to ask if it is for the greater good of the community. They simply nod their collective bobbleheads in rhythm with his. Don’t ask, just vote: they are less followers than puppets.

    But he is too focused on quitting his responsibilities as mayor, and campaigning for a better-paying job in Queen’s Park where he can collect his salary without having to actually work for it (as he became candidate without having to work for it) to guide his cabal towards thinking on their own (admittedly a challenging, long-term task for even one capable of tackling it).So they continue to run on their hamster wheel while he looks elsewhere to achieve his personal ambitions.

    This leaves his sycophants in chaos, and without any of them capable of stepping forward to take the rudder he abandoned in January (none were elected for their talents or wisdom), the community suffers. Collingwood reflects the conditions at council and in town hall: chaotic, ineffectual, inept, incapable are all reflected in the condition of our potholed streets, the decaying terminals, the tarnished downtown, the dead boulevard trees, the rotting First Street lampposts, the corruption at the table, our scruffy, ill-maintained parks, our oppressive bylaws, council’s invented water “crisis,” and the poorly-conceived municipal policies and planning. Town administration seems to bumble and fumble in ineffective lockstep with council.

    There is a Chinese document on governance and leadership from 139 BCE that was presented to the Han emperor Wu, called the Huainanzi. It points out that the state is a reflection of the leader’s state of mind and attributes like his/her honesty, goodness, and trustworthiness (in our case this municipality, its council and administration). In chapter 14 Daoist teacher Zhan He is quoted as saying:

    I have never heard of the ruler’s inner person being well ordered and the state being chaotic.
    I have never heard of the ruler’s inner person being chaotic and the state being well-ordered.
    When a carpenter’s square is not set aright, you cannot use it to make squares.
    When a compass is not set aright, you cannot use it to make circles.
    The inner person is the square and compass of all endeavours.
    I have never heard of one whose self was crooked being able to set other people aright.
    (From Sources of Chinese Tradition, Vol. 1, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary & Irene Bloom, 2nd edn., Columbia University Press, 1999, p. 271)

    Nothing will change here until they are all voted out of office and can be replaced by some honest politicians with no personal vendettas to be expressed through taxpayers’ money, who are independent with enough intelligence to think for themselves, who read, who ask questions, and who care more about what is good for the community than what is good for themselves.

    And, no, I don’t expect any of our reading- and thinking-averse council to have read anything even remotely related to philosophy, leadership, governance, or anything that might matter to their elected role, much less an obscure Chinese text.

  3. Joanne

    It’s quite incredulous that this council actually passed this motion. I can’t believe that they’re closing Maple street for the month of September. Residents could tolerate this for a weekend but to have this inconvenience go on for a month is ludicrous. We have wonderful biking trails in our town where cyclists can safely ride for kilometres. The traffic flow is already on overload with the influx of new residents. The adjacent streets will become traffic hazards as frustrated motorists make the detours to their destinations. Speeding, which is already a problem, could become worse. Children live on these streets. I shudder to think of the potential for dangerous situations. Children are returning to school increasing pedestrian and bike traffic on the school routes. Not a safe environment for our excited young people returning to school !

    Joanne

  4. From Sebastian Brandt’s Ship of Fools: Ch. 2, On Councilors:

    Full many exercise their wit
    That soon in council they may sit,
    Not knowing right or wrong at all
    They blindly grope along the wall…
    Let judgment be a lesser care,
    For it alone does not make right…

    (translated by Edwin Zeydel, Dover Books, 1962, p.64-65)

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