Road rage

Glynn Pearson thinks his neighbourhood has gotten the shaft when it comes to inner-city traffic plan

“For a couple of years now, I've been involved in a fruitless and now quixotic quest to make my road feel a little bit safer,” says Glynn Pearson. The Calgary resident has been hounding the city to institute traffic-calming measures in his neighbourhood. He sums his complaint up this way: “Why, in a city that is supposedly democratic and egalitarian, does there appear to be two standards for safety and quality of life, one for wealthy enclaves [Elbow Park, Mount Royal and Scarboro] and another for the rest of us?”

Pearson lives on 33rd St. in the southwest neighbourhood of Killarney. In case you haven’t driven on that road (and he fears that you probably have), it’s a picture-perfect residential street — nice middle-class homes, big trees and well-kept lawns. Running through it is a narrow roadway that’s perfect for street hockey or kids riding bikes. Except you wouldn’t want your kids anywhere near it.

“We are terrified of having them out there,” Pearson says of his two daughters, aged two and five. “They do not go out the front door unsupervised.” He’s not alone. Neighbour Reid Cummings says he won’t let his seven-year-old son cross the street by himself because of the increasing traffic volume, blind intersections and “prolific” speeding on the roadway.

Though it looks residential, 33rd St. receives substantial traffic (about 3,600 cars a day according to city estimates) from people driving through Killarney via 17th Ave. to the north, and 26th Ave. to the south. With parked cars on either side, the road is barely wide enough for two medium sized vehicles to pass each other.

It’s a recipe for disaster; Pearson points out that there have been at least two severe accidents on the street during the three years that he’s lived there. Other residents along that stretch of road report a host of incidents, ranging from cars being swiped and side-view mirrors getting whacked off to household pets getting run over.

The roadway is just too narrow for the traffic it receives, says Pearson, who believes the solution is straightforward: institute traffic-calming measures. Yet, though Pearson and his 33rd St. neighbours have brought their concerns forward to a traffic review meeting as well as raising the question directly with their alderman and city traffic engineers, he feels they’ve been largely ignored. The culmination of their efforts was that in 2007, a single speed bump was installed on the street.

“We call it a speed jump,” Pearson says, wryly commenting on its ineffectiveness at slowing traffic.

What causes even more angst for Pearson is his belief that they are the victims of a conscious disparity — with close-by neighbourhoods like Mount Royal, Elbow Park and Scarboro getting substantially more traffic calming measures in the form of reduced speed limits, traffic circles and no-turn signs.

“By simple observation, you can see there’s a disparity,” says Pearson, who notes that while it’s virtually impossible for drivers to shortcut through these affluent neighbourhoods, Killarney has four “collector” roads designated by the city to handle significant traffic volumes between downtown and south Calgary. He adds, “It’s tough not to draw the conclusion that the city’s looking after affluent people first.”

For its part, the city says that people often believe that their road is dangerous even if it isn’t. Derek Heric, a spokesperson for the city’s Transportation Planning department says that according to its numbers, traffic volume on 33rd St. hasn’t changed since 1997, and the speeds measured there “were nothing to worry about.”

“We’ve done all we can from a traffic measures standpoint,” says Heric, adding that if there’s a problem with speeding or bad drivers, it’s an issue of traffic enforcement by the police, not city traffic policy.

As for the perceived disparity between have and have-less neighbourhoods, Heric refutes this, saying, “We treat every community the same. For us, it’s based on numbers. We do traffic counts, we do speed studies and we use that data to determine what traffic measures we can use.”

Still, Pearson, who readily confesses he’s not an expert on traffic engineering, wonders how wealthy land developer and Mount Royal resident John Torode got a personal meeting at his home with Malcolm Logan, the city’s director of roads, to discuss traffic calming (a meeting mentioned on the Mount Royal Community Association’s website), when he couldn’t even get a city engineer to come over and sit on his porch to observe rush hour traffic.

“Really, at the end of the day, our voices as the people who live on this road saying it’s not safe are being ignored,” says Pearson, who bears himself with the calm frustration of someone who has hit a city roadblock — and not the good kind that might bring his community’s traffic worries to a standstill.

Comments: 5

herbert wrote:

I used to live at 2229 33rd Street SW and my sister still does. I have witnessed cars driving past her house at speeds of at least 80km/h. I agree one hundred percent with Glynn. That street is very dangerous for young children, seniors and any pedestrian. Set up some illusive photo radar and double the fines for residential areas.

Kyle Moss

on Oct 30th, 2008 at 10:01pm Report Abuse

Jh59 wrote:

I have lived in Elbow Park & Altadore for 30 years. Traffic is a continual concern, made worse with the development of Canada Lands. Cross cutting, using single lane roads as two lanes, impatient drivers are all part of the problem. Glynn Pearson has valid concerns and the City needs to facilitate the community voices such as his. However, Mr. Pearson should be aware that Elbow Park (I am not familiar with the Mount Royal Community Assoc.) Residents Association has tackled the traffic problems for years. I feel no special treatment accorded our neighbourhood, rather I believe the traffic calming measure came about by the diligent and determined efforts of volunteers. Furthermore, what many people do not understand is that more often than not, the residents have to pay for many of these projects out of their pockets or through fundraising. I would urge Mr. Pearson to pursue his traffic calming goal, by getting volunteers, writing letters, host community townhalls, & keep the focus on his problems. He needs to be prepared for opposition from his neighbours, as well as support. The bottom line is, nobody in Elbow Park made a phone call & bingo the traffic calming measures were put in place. Years and years of difficult negotiations and community activism got the City to put in the traffic calming measures, not "have-more" privileges. Best of luck and I, for one, will mind my driving on 33rd & elsewhere in your neighbourhood.

on Nov 1st, 2008 at 1:22pm Report Abuse

GP wrote:

Per the previous comments:

I did say in the interview that this was NOT a case of me being angry at the residents in Mt. Royal and Elbow Park et. al.. I admire their hard work and organization and that what angers me is that it is not considered a precedent by the City. To me, Elbow Park is almost identical to Killarney both are inner-city neighbourhoods on the grid system with similar problems but vastly disparate solutions.

One other note is that I personally offered to undertake fundraising efforts to improve the condition of our road and the City refused my offer completely.

Regards and thank you for your consideration,

Glynn Pearson

on Nov 1st, 2008 at 2:23pm Report Abuse

fwdthinker wrote:

I know someone that lives on this street and am daily amazed and disgusted by the speed on this street and the traffic volume is definitely extremely high. I feel sorry for people who have to put up not only with the volume of traffic which is very noisy but the dangerous driving is really the biggest issue, as the road is too narrow.
I went to one of the City's meetings before the added the speed bump and they admitted that the road was not sufficiently wide enough!
I have had my side mirror knocked off while parked on this street and believe me whoever hit it was flying.

on Nov 4th, 2008 at 6:04pm Report Abuse

Ariff wrote:

I presently live on 33rd St. and find the traffic to be a big problem. When my wife and I go for a walk with our two young kids, we do our best to avoid 33rd St. Drivers are just not paying attention. I've actually waited (with a stroller and kid in hand) and watched 4 cars pass by before a car finally stopped and let me cross the road.

My neighbor, who bought his house when it was new, and 33rd St was a gravel road, has been fighting the City for years. According to the Area Development Plan (ARP) for Killarny Glengarry, an increase in traffic "will be discouraged" on 33rd St. Yet in the CFB West Community Mobility Study, there is a recommendation to add a signal at 33rd St. and Richmond Road.

With the additional development in the Currie Barracks alone, it is estimated that traffic volume will reach 22000 vehicles/day. With this much traffic coming into and out of the Currie Barracks and the west leg of the LRT soon coming in, 33rd St. will no longer be a collector road, it will become the shortcut only "locals" know.

With Master plans conflicting, traffic studies being done before the west leg of the LRT is built, and no further traffic studies planned to determine the effect of the LRT, I really get the impression the City has no master plan. It's simply waiting for the squeaky wheel to become unbearable.

on Nov 12th, 2008 at 9:49pm Report Abuse

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