Pro-Car Planning is Destroying Collingwood’s Environment

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Car pollution will get worse in CollingwoodI warned you: Council would support the anti-resident/anti-environment/pro-vehicle attitude that pervades town hall. I warned you they would deforest Sixth Street to make it a bigger, faster speedway for vehicles. I warned you they would add more pollution, more noise, and more traffic on Sixth Street. I warned you that they would lower property values there. I warned you they would make it more unhealthy for residents, for our water, and for trees and wildlife.

And they did.

CollingwoodToday has the sad story of how our council has voted in favour of cars, not residents, with a headline that says “Council reluctantly approves Sixth St. tree replacement plan.” Reluctantly? Bullshit: they all voted for this:

Those three dozen trees are currently standing on the north side of Sixth Street, including14 Silver Maples that are between 60 and 100 years old, a Honey Locust that is about 33 years old and seven Norway Maples between 40 and 60 years old.
And all of them will be cut down to make room for the town’s Sixth Street reconstruction project.

I am deeply saddened and feel betrayed that none of council had the spine to stand up and fight for resident-first community and for keeping our beautiful urban canopy. All of them caved in to staff demands to deforest the streetscape and widen the traffic lanes to make it better and faster for cars and trucks without even a suggestion for traffic calming or much-needed all-way stop signs along the route.*

Councillors made risibly disingenuous comments about how awful they felt in denuding the street. Et tu, Brute? They then sloughed off any municipal responsibility for any alleged replacements by making it the residents’ responsibility to manage and maintain them:

The plan is to replace them at a two-to-one ratio and offer new trees for Sixth St. residents to be planted on their private property at no cost to property owners.

This vague and impractical suggestion doesn’t seem to have been developed in consultation with those residents, nor was there any evident survey asking if they wanted to take on that responsibility for the town’s poor pro-vehicle planning.

Given the town’s long history of not replacing boulevard trees they have cut down, and even when they do plant some after years of badgering from residents, they abandon them without care so many die, do you really think an anti-environmental townhall will follow through on this? Are councillors so gullible to believe assurances an immature stick of a tree is a replacement for a magnificent 60-100-year-old one that acts as a wildlife home, pollution mitigator, and shade producer? Do they really think new trees will do better when the street and the groundwater are more polluted from the additional vehicle exhaust** and the worse threat of tire and brake particles?***

(I cannot find in the media a single comment from anyone on council about the problems of increased pollution or noise**** for Sixth Street residents… another reason we need a ward system here, so someone can be held accountable for ignoring major issues and health concerns).

Why not plant replacement trees on other sidestreet boulevards? Because townhall doesn’t like or want trees and certainly won’t care for them. How many trees have been replaced for those cut down in Harbourview Park for ash borers or the Labyrinth? Right: none. How many of the 50-plus mature trees that were cut down along Hurontario Street last term have been replaced? Right: none. How many trees were planted in the town-owned empty lot downtown across from town hall? Right: none. Instead, it was paved over in a blatant anti-environmental middle-finger gesture to residents.

Our feckless mayor cried crocodile tears while saying how wonderful it would be to have a faster, noisier, dirtier, less safe street with not a single attempt at traffic calming implemented on it:

“This hasn’t been an easy decision, but I do believe at the end of the day we’re going to have an awesome standard in place for separated bike lanes. I’m certain we’ll end up with more, healthier trees,” said Mayor Yvonne Hamlin.

It’s all bullshit. Everyone at the table is aware of what a nightmare Sixth Street already is for traffic and everyone knows it will become worse with this plan. Yet Council voted to do staff’s bidding and deforest a part of the town for the benefit of drivers, many of whom are not even residents and are merely passing through town.

Collingwood deserves better.

 

Notes:

There are to date two letters in CwoodToday opposing the plan to make Sixth Street a speedway. One writer asked “Why are we reconstructing Sixth Street and spending money that is needed elsewhere for other important things like aging infrastructure?” The other writer  asked “Why does Sixth Street have to be for cars, bikes and pedestrians when so many trees are going to be lost?” She added, “Just so you know, Sixth Street isn’t pleasant to be on if you’re not in a car. It will be far worse without any trees. So, let’s try a different tactic. What about making Fifth Street one way?” But as far as I can tell from any media stories, staff never presented any such alternatives and no one on council suggested investigating alternatives. I can find no story about this in the almost-empty Collingwood section of Simcoe.com, but then who would expect one there these days?

* From World Resources Institute: Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Narrow Traffic Lanes Make Cities Safer. (emphasis added)

How Wide Should a Traffic Lane Be? WRI’s research shows that cities with travel lane widths from 2.8 to 3.25 meters (9.2 to 10.6 feet), such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Tokyo, have the lowest crash fatality rates per 100,000 residents. However, many cities, specifically in the developing world, have wider lanes and higher fatality rates (See Figure 1).
For decades, transport engineers and planners have considered wider lanes safer, as they provided higher maneuvering space within the lane and were said to help prevent sideswipes among cars. Yet, in an urban setting, this means cars may go faster, and, when cars go faster, the likelihood of crashes and injuries increases. For example, if a car is traveling at 30 km/h (18.6 mph), pedestrians have a 90 percent chance of survival, but, if the car is traveling at 50 km/h (31 mph), there is only a 15 percent chance the struck pedestrian will survive (See Figure 2).

From NPR: Skinny roads save lives, according to a study on the width of traffic lanes

A new study found engineers should make roads narrower to reduce car crashes. Such improvements would also come with environmental and economic benefits…
We found that wider is not better. Actually, wider streets have more crashes. That’s especially true of roads with 12-foot lanes and speed limits of 30 or 35 miles per hour. They had 1 1/2 times more crashes than roads with just 9-foot lanes and the same speed limit.

From Johns Hopkins University: How Narrower Traffic Lanes Could Help Reduce Crashes

Drivers are less concerned about the speed limit and more concerned about the context of the street in determining their driving speed. In other words, on streets that are busier, have trees, lots of pedestrians, a bike lane, and bikes on the street, drivers feel less safe driving fast and will drive slower, regardless of the speed limit. And that’s where you also see lane widths playing a role. There’s definitely room to make streets narrower without sacrificing safety.

** From the US National Library of Medicine: Air pollution and health risks due to vehicle traffic

Traffic congestion increases vehicle emissions and degrades ambient air quality, and recent studies have shown excess morbidity and mortality for drivers, commuters and individuals living near major roadways… In many areas, vehicle emissions have become the dominant source of air pollutants, including carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or hydrocarbons (HCs), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (PM) (Transportation Research Board (TRB), 2002). The increasing severity and duration of traffic congestion have the potential to greatly increase pollutant emissions and to degrade air quality, particularly near large roadways. These emissions contribute to risks of morbidity and mortality for drivers, commuters and individuals living near roadways, as shown by epidemiological studies, evaluations of proposed vehicle emission standards, and environmental impact assessments for specific road projects.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists: Transportation is a major source of air pollution and the largest source of heat-trapping emissions in the United States.

In fact, transportation emits more than half of nitrogen oxides in our air, and is a major source of heat-trapping emissions in the US. Studies have linked pollutants from vehicle exhaust to adverse impacts on nearly every organ system in the body. And worse yet, the exposure to pollution is inequitable.

From the Government of Canada: Health impacts of traffic-related air pollution in Canada

A large body of scientific evidence has accumulated over the past 25 years attributing a wide range of adverse health effects to ambient (outdoor) air pollution exposure. These effects range in severity from respiratory symptoms to the development of disease and premature death. For example, exposure to airborne particles, a component of smog, increases the risk of premature mortality from heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.
On-road vehicles contribute to air pollution through fuel combustion and evaporative emissions as well as emissions from tire and brake wear. Canadians are regularly exposed to traffic-related air pollution (TRAP), most notably in high-traffic areas such as near highways and urban centres. TRAP consists of a complex and variable mixture of particulate and gaseous pollutants that contribute to smog, including fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and ozone (O3).

From the Journal of Applied Ecology: Vehicle pollution is associated with elevated insect damage to street trees

Vehicle pollution is a pervasive aspect of anthropogenic change across rural and urban habitats. The most common emissions are carbon- or nitrogen-based pollutants that may impact diverse interactions between plants and insect herbivores… Our results also indicate that trees next to highways are particularly vulnerable to multiple stressors, including insect damage.

*** From the WEF: Tire particle pollution may be harming freshwater and estuary ecosystems:

Tiny particles that rub off of tires are likely harming freshwater and coastal estuary ecosystems, a pair of recent studies from Oregon State University (OSU) found. The first study, published in Chemosphere last month, found that exposure to tire particles had harmful effects on organisms from coastal estuaries, while the second, published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, found the same for freshwater organisms. Both studies grow out of concern with the number of tire particles in the environment.

From CNN: Car tires are disastrous for the environment. This startup wants to be a driving force in fixing the problem

Every time a driver brakes, accelerates, or turns a corner, their car tires wear down a little. Most car owners replace their tires every five or so years because of this normal wear and tear — but the environmental consequences are extreme.
Around 6.1 million metric tons of tire dust end up in our atmosphere and waterways annually. It’s one of the most common microplastic pollutants in our oceans – and it’s even been found in remote places like the Arctic.
Now a London-based startup has come up with a solution to stop tire dust in its tracks. The Tyre Collective has created a wheel-mounted device that collects the tiny particles on electrostatically charged copper plates.

From the Washington Post: Why tires — not tailpipes — are spewing more pollution from your cars: Wear and tear on vehicles’ tires and brakes emit fine particles into the air, linked to heart and lung disease

It’s time for a summer road trip for you, your car — and your tires and brakes. Recently, scientists are finding wear and tear on your tires and brakes are causing a worrying amount of particulate pollution, which may be a problem for the environment and your health.
For decades, scientists and health officials have warned drivers of the harmful pollutants coming from tailpipes. But as car exhaust systems have become cleaner, pollution linked to heart and lung disease has increased from a different source: tires and brakes.

From Yale University: Road Hazard: Evidence Mounts on Toxic Pollution from Tires

Researchers are only beginning to uncover the toxic cocktail of chemicals, microplastics, and heavy metals hidden in car and truck tires. But experts say these tire emissions are a significant source of air and water pollution and may be affecting humans as well as wildlife.
For two decades, researchers worked to solve a mystery in West Coast streams. Why, when it rained, were large numbers of spawning coho salmon dying? As part of an effort to find out, scientists placed fish in water that contained particles of new and old tires. The salmon died, and the researchers then began testing the hundreds of chemicals that had leached into the water.
A 2020 paper revealed the cause of mortality: a chemical called 6PPD that is added to tires to prevent their cracking and degradation. When 6PPD, which occurs in tire dust, is exposed to ground-level ozone, it’s transformed into multiple other chemicals, including 6PPD-quinone, or 6PPD-q. The compound is acutely toxic to four of 11 tested fish species, including coho salmon.
Mystery solved, but not the problem, for the chemical continues to be used by all major tire manufacturers and is found on roads and in waterways around the world. Though no one has studied the impact of 6PPD-q on human health, it’s also been detected in the urine of children, adults, and pregnant women in South China. The pathways and significance of that contamination are, so far, unknown.

From Pew Trusts: (emphasis added)

Vehicle tyre particles are estimated to be one of the largest sources of microplastic emissions, contributing around 1 million metric tons of plastic pollution to the environment globally each year. Tyres are made from a mixture of natural and synthetic rubber as well as a type of plastic polymer and other chemical compounds. When there is friction with the road surface, such as when vehicles accelerate or brake, small particles break off from tyres and are released into the air and onto the road surface and roadside environment. From there, they can contaminate soil and waterways via road surface runoff, wastewater and airborne movement.
These tyre particles may eventually end up entering and polluting the ocean. Tyre nanoparticles, tiny pieces of plastic smaller than microplastics, have even been documented in ice cores from the Arctic—among the most remote places on Earth. Researchers found that tyre nanoparticles accounted for almost a quarter of detected plastic types in the ice cores, alongside others, including polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate—both commonly used in packaging.

From CNN: Microplastics from your tires are likely reaching the most remote places on Earth, study finds

The wear and tear of tires and brake pads leave behind huge amounts of these tiny pieces of plastic. Previous studies have found that tire abrasion is one of the most significant sources globally of microplastics in aquatic ecosystems, and is responsible for an estimated 30 percent of all the microplastic particles in our oceans.
It’s also one of the few sources of microplastics that researchers can estimate global emissions for.
They found that larger particles – those roughly one-fifth the diameter of a human hair – can float in the air for between five and 11 days, but are typically deposited near the place they were produced.
Smaller particles, however, can drift on the wind for much longer and often do travel great distances, according to Nikolaos Evangeliou, a senior researcher at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research and another co-author of this study.
Of these smaller tire plastics, roughly 57% land in the ocean, making them a major contributor of ocean microplastics.

From the WEF: The roots of sustainability: 5 reasons why cities need trees

As most cities and countries continue to report hotter summer days that are breaking 100-year records, indoor cooling can offer only little respite and to the privileged few. The majority outdoors – humans and other beings – continue to struggle in the heat, finding shelter in the shade of trees. And yet these very same trees are being displaced by physical urban infrastructure: buildings, roads, bridges, flyovers. For sustainable, inclusive development, urban trees need to be protected.
If the current trend of urban development continues, buildings and people may soon crowd out the majority of existing trees. Poor urban planning often leads to indiscriminate and sometimes illegal felling. Another key reason why cities are losing their tree cover lies in how trees are viewed: as an amenity at best, and at worst, as a resource that can be easily surrendered.

**** From World Scientific: A Review of Adverse Effects of Road Traffic Noise on Human Health

Noise pollution due to road traffic is a potential threat to human health. Since it is a global hazard, the rapid urbanization and exponential traffic growth have aggravated the problem. Population residing along the busy traffic lanes is continuously exposed to the sound levels which are above the permissible limits. This constant exposure to noise pollution is a cause of concern as it leads to several adverse impacts on human health. Traffic noise causes irritation and annoyance, sleep disturbances, cardiovascular disease, risk of stroke, diabetes, hypertension and loss of hearing. It results in decreased work performance. The present review highlights the serious health hazards of road traffic noise (RTN) which needs to be curbed. Preventive measures of noise pollution can help in combating noise-induced health hazards and increased work performance.

From the US National Library of Medicine: (emphasis added)

…traffic noise has been associated with both cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and health-issues including sleeping problems, annoyance, and stress, it seems plausible that traffic noise is associated with health-related quality of life... According to the WHO, one in three EU citizens is annoyed by environmental noise and one in four report experiencing sleep disturbance due to this. At an individual level, these non-clinical effects have been suggested to hamper an optimal physiological and mental functioning, and thus affect quality of life.

From ScienceDirect: Road traffic noise is one of the main environmental risks to health and wellbeing.

Environmental noise has been related to many non-auditory adverse health outcomes, including sleep disturbance, annoyance, cardiovascular and metabolic disease, adverse birth outcomes, cognitive impairment and poor mental health and wellbeing… he strongest evidence so far has been found for environmental noise exposure, particularly road traffic noise, and the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) (van Kempen et al., 2018). Long-term exposure to environmental noise may cause a sustained stress reaction which leads to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and endocrine system, resulting in the release of stress hormones, increases in the heart rate, blood pressure and vasoconstriction, eventually leading to chronic diseases such as CVD (Eriksson et al., 2018). In addition, a prolonged activation of the stress response can result in the development of depression and anxiety disorders (Clark & Paunovic, 2018). Annoyance is also one of the main effects of noise exposure related to the stress response

From ScienceDirect: Road traffic noise impacts sleep continuity in suburban residents: Exposure-response quantification of noise-induced awakenings from vehicle pass-bys at night

Nocturnal traffic noise has been associated with adverse health outcomes in exposed residents. Precise quantification of traffic noise effects on sleep is thus of great importance. Here we establish an exposure-response relationship for the awakening probability due to intermittent road traffic noise in suburban residents… Road traffic noise at night – even in suburban areas with moderate traffic density – negatively impacts residents’ sleep continuity. Exposure-response quantification for traffic noise-induced awakenings may serve as a basis for noise protection efforts by regulators and policy makers.

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11 Comments

  1. Beware: This won’t end here with the destruction of Sixth Street’s trees. Destroying the residential nature of Third Street to make it another speedway that facilitates drivers passing through town is the next anti-resident debacle on the planning program. Third Street will be widened, trees chopped down, no traffic calming. Just like Sixth Street, brought to you by the councillors who value cars more than people.

  2. https://www.collingwoodtoday.ca/letters-to-the-editor/letter-trees-should-trump-cars-bike-lanes-9007021
    A third letter in CwoodToday:
    LETTER: Trees should trump cars, bike lanes
    ‘There is a need to rethink this issue,’ says Collingwood grandparents
    If you want to keep Collingwood family- and kid-friendly think about speed controls, add stop signs, put in more speed bumps or investigate more such measures but please leave our trees alone.
    Don’t be fooled by pleasant re-design images.
    As the sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury once said, any society where a man totally encased in steel takes precedence over a natural human being is already a sci-fi nightmare.

  3. A fourth letter from a resident upset with Council’s pro-traffic/anti-environment decision:
    https://www.collingwoodtoday.ca/letters-to-the-editor/letter-you-cant-replace-a-mature-tree-9021331
    I was astonished to read in Collingwood Today that council has (albeit begrudgingly) approved the removal of 36 mature trees as part of the Sixth Street reconstruction.

    When a colleague first mentioned this to me several weeks ago, I didn’t believe it possible. I thought, surely this couldn’t be approved.

    As a cyclist, a pedestrian, a driver and a PhD in Ecology, I would most certainly choose the trees over any sort of bike lanes.

    Indeed, the existing bike lanes, though not perfect, suffice and small but effective improvements could be made without sacrificing the trees. Some sort of compromise must be possible.

    Mature trees provide shade, temperature regulation, habitat, psychological benefits, and once they are gone, they are gone.

  4. https://newrepublic.com/article/181593/strange-villainization-walkable-city-15-minute-moreno-book
    I suspect that the rightwingers in our town hall have fallen prey to the QAnon conspiracies about the walkable city… great article…
    The Strange Villainization of the Walkable City
    The 15-minute city proposed to shorten commutes and increase convenience. Why has it proven so divisive?
    A group of nearly 100 mayors committed to implementing it in some form as a means toward a climate-friendly recovery from the crisis. At COP26 in 2021, architects put the strategy at the center of discussions of sustainable city development goals. The World Economic Forum released slick videos and articles endorsing the 15-minute city.
    It’s probably no wonder, then, that the 15-minute city eventually penetrated the tinfoil hats of the far right. In 2023, climate deniers, QAnon types, radical libertarians, anti-vaxxers, and white supremacists seized on the World Economic Forum’s elite support for the idea. Fringe narratives made it synonymous with “climate lockdowns” and the “great reset,” in which governments would confine residents to open-air prisons, restricting and surveilling their movements (and perhaps forcing them to eat bugs). Online conspiracists compared the 15-minute city to the Warsaw Ghetto. Reactionary self-help author Jordan B. Peterson called it a scheme by “idiot tyrannical bureaucrats” to tell you where you’re allowed to drive. Moreno, in the normal course of events, became a lightning rod for insane abuse and death threats.

    Our current predicament owes, in part, to the planning principles of the twentieth century. The Athens Charter, a 1933 document published by renowned architect Le Corbusier and the International Congress of Modern Architecture, promoted the “radiant city,” an idealized plan that would zone urban areas for distinct uses: high-rise residential districts surrounded by green space, with separate industrial and commercial zones, all connected by high-speed transportation infrastructure. This aim to rationalize modern cities became enormously influential in postwar planning worldwide.

  5. https://pdxscholar.library.pdx.edu/toward-resilient-futures/5/
    Toward a Resilient Urban Forest
    Abstract
    The urban forest provides myriad benefits for improving the health and well-being of residents. Yet, a rapidly warming planet poses acute challenges for maintaining existing tree canopy due the localized amplification of temperatures by specific characteristics of the built environment. Complicating matters further is the public perceptions of trees as green infrastructure, and the extent to which urban forests support efforts to improve regional resilience to climate change. This presentation will draw on the past decade of empirical research on Portland’s urban forest by examining its role in creating regional resilience, distributional inequities, and known threats that require collaborative actions.

  6. And yet another letter from a resident angry over council’s planned destruction of 100-year-old trees along Sixth Street:
    https://www.collingwoodtoday.ca/letters-to-the-editor/letter-loss-of-trees-along-sixth-street-concerning-9029142
    I am concerned about the trees coming down on Sixth Street when reconstructing the street.
    Why not make a bike lane on one side of the road and leave the sidewalk for people who walk? To me, then, you really aren’t getting rid of all the trees and I’m sure cyclists would feel safer on their own side of the road.

  7. Six letters from angry residents over council’s anti-environment/Anti-resident/pro-car plan for Sixth Street:
    https://www.collingwoodtoday.ca/letters-to-the-editor/letter-maybe-a-fifth-solution-to-sixth-street-problem-8988468
    Why does Sixth Street have to be for cars, bikes and pedestrians when so many trees are going to be lost?
    Just so you know, Sixth Street isn’t pleasant to be on if you’re not in a car. It will be far worse without any trees.
    So, let’s try a different tactic. What about making Fifth Street one way?

  8. https://treetrust.ca/community-partners/
    Our Chapters: Learn more about the Tree Trust work happening in your community and support their local carbon offset work.
    Why isn’t there a chapter in Collingwood? probably because townhall hates trees and would discourage anyone from advocating for or protecting them!

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/tree-pageant-tree-of-the-year-contest-2024-1.7228589
    Know a good-looking tree? Nominate it for the 2024 Ontario tree pageant
    There are separate selection committees for trees located in various parts of Ontario
    Nominate a Sixth Street tree!

  9. https://www.collingwoodtoday.ca/letters-to-the-editor/letters-residents-question-chopping-down-trees-for-6th-st-plans-9062472
    And ANOTHER letter complaining about council’s heartless plan to deforest a residential section of Collingwood to make Sixth Street into a better speedway for cars…

    We hear nothing but traffic all day and into the evening and also have to clean up garbage tossed onto our and others’ property.

    The trees have always been a comfort, and were and are planted to enhance our home, give us shade and make our properties look nice.

  10. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/354672/hochul-congestion-pricing-manhattan-diners-cars-transit
    Small business owners wildly overestimate how many customers arrive by car
    In study after study in city after city around the world, researchers have found that merchants exaggerate the share of patrons who arrive by car and undercount those who walk, bike, or ride transit. Those misperceptions lead them to oppose transportation reforms that would limit the presence of cars and make urban neighborhoods cleaner, more pleasant, and less polluted — and would likely increase spending at their business, too.

    It’s a similar story in North America. In Toronto, a group of small business owners vehemently opposed new bike lanes on Bloor Street in 2016, but a subsequent academic analysis found that retail spending and customer counts increased after the bike lanes were installed.

    A 2013 study of the Portland, Oregon region concluded that “bicyclists, transit users, and pedestrians are competitive consumers and, for all businesses except supermarkets, spend more on average than those who drive.” That analysis surprised many business owners in the relatively car-centric city, prompting one convenience store chain to install bike racks near its entryways, said Kelly Clifton, a professor of community and regional planning at the University of British Columbia who co-authored the study.

    The findings about business owners’ perceptions of customer travel are remarkably consistent. I have yet to see a single study where survey respondents accurately estimated their customers’ modal split or made errors in the opposite direction (i.e., undercounting those who drive and overestimating non-drivers). The bottom line: Business owners think shoppers use cars more often than they actually do.

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