Road Safety Initiatives in Small Municipalities

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

This article summarizes presentations at a workshop on Road Safety Initiatives in Small Municipalities at the 2014 Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Conference & Exhibition.

Editor’s note – In this article written for TAC News, Catherine Berthod, Engineer and Urban Planner with the Quebec Ministry of Transport (ministère des Transports du Québec) Transportation Safety Division, provides an account of current road safety initiatives in small communities. Prepared on behalf of the TAC Small Municipalities Task Force, this article is part of a series of feature articles on the issues and challenges affecting smaller communities.

Guest speakers at the workshop, which was coordinated by the Small Municipalities Working Group, discussed actions that municipalities can undertake to improve road safety in their locality, along with challenges they typically encounter.

Two city councillors from the Municipality of Saint-Liboire (Quebec), Yves Winter and Guylaine Morin, presented results from the Traffic and Transportation Committee established in 2006 in this small community, located on the outskirts of Montreal. The Committee’s mandate is to examine road traffic issues and concerns, and provide solutions to increase residents’ awareness of the small changes in travel habits that can make a big difference.

Working in ongoing cooperation with the Sûreté du Québec and other key stakeholders, the Committee has orchestrated special initiatives in the following areas:

  • established an Active & Safe Routes to School Program, focusing on primary school children 
  • implemented community safety awareness programs for Halloween and the Santa Claus Parade
  • published road safety articles in the community’s monthly newspaper
  • organized various safety contests and spearheaded the installation of traffic calming devices

The continuous involvement and support of community partners has helped improve road safety habits in the community.

This presentation was followed by a detailed description of the Road Network Safety Diagnostic and Action Plan produced for the Regional County Municipality (RCM) of Arthabaska, Quebec by Nicolas Saunier, Associate Professor, Polytechnique de Montréal. Located in Central Quebec, the Arthabaska RCM encompasses 22 small communities with a total population of 71,000 and a municipality with 45,000 residents.

The Plan was developed in cooperation with close to forty partner organizations. Detailed data analysis was instrumental in pinpointing accident-prone locations where serious accidents occurred, and identifying the most prevalent causal factors involved, including speeding, and the presence of many user types on urban and rural roadways – cyclists, farm vehicles, and wildlife. Proposed areas for action included planning and engineering solutions (treatment of community gateways, pedestrian and cycling networks), signage, roadway and road shoulder maintenance improvements, awareness initiatives (directed at farm operators, for example) and law enforcement activities (aimed at improving compliance with speed limits).

In a rural municipality setting, in-depth analysis of accident statistics can be somewhat problematic as the number of occurrences is generally quite low. For instance, it is difficult to identify accident-prone locations or common accident scenarios. Also, in rural environments, although the number of collisions involving farm vehicles is typically very low, this concern is often raised by other road users and police authorities.

The next guest speaker, Raheem Dilgir, President of TranSafe Consulting Ltd., explored some of the challenges municipalities are beginning to encounter as a result of an aging population. As an example, he outlined road safety improvements recently implemented in a small municipality in British Columbia. In response to changing demographics, municipal authorities developed innovative solutions to maintain road safety conditions for all road users, including seniors. As pedestrians, seniors are less mobile and become more vulnerable. As drivers, their skill level can be expected to diminish.

Solutions implemented by the municipality included infrastructure improvements (in particular, the installation of traffic calming devices), and traffic management and pedestrian environment improvements (wider sidewalks, relocation of a crosswalk, signage improvements, and cyclist awareness activities).

The final speaker, Darren Charters, Traffic Engineer with the City of Fredericton, presented the step-by-step process involved in transforming a four-way stop intersection into a roundabout in a fast-growing urban area. This project was initiated in response to an increase in frequency of collisions at this intersection. A signage improvement measure (additional pavement markings and roadside speed indicators) did not produce the expected results, and given that the installation of full traffic lights was rejected, the roundabout option was subjected to an in-depth analysis and later retained.

The roundabout was built in the summer of 2012, and was followed by an immediate decrease in collisions. Users have come to understand the advantages of this structure and elected officials are keen to support the development of additional roundabouts. This example shows that municipalities need to be ready to innovate to improve road safety. However, it was noted that preliminary studies and development requirements are not without cost.



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