Solving Residential Area Speeding Problems

Speed DemonThis is a story from Chestnut Street in Parksville, but could just as easily take place on any residential street in British Columbia. It appears that both the residents there and the City Council are upset about the speeds of the drivers who use that street. What no one seemed to agree on was what to do about it beyond asking police to do enforcement and perhaps posting the speed limit at 40 km/h.

Chestnut Street itself is a wide, flat, gently curving stretch of pavement through a residential area with large city lots. There is one lane for each direction, sidewalks and room to park on either side. All the residences seem to have large driveways as Google Street View shows no one parked on the street.

The wide open space tends to lower driver risk perception and facilitate higher speeds. While the debate was centred on traffic calming measures, it apparently turned into a venting of frustration concerning a perceived lack of enforcement by the local RCMP Detachment. Comments from councillors ranged from "Why are we not generating (speeding-ticket) revenue from all these lead-footed drivers?" to "My experience has been it's a lack of (RCMP) resources."

This segment of the meeting ended with council passing a staff recommendation to enter the street into a three stage process that will start with public education, possibly followed by signage and enforcement and finally the possibility of traffic calming measures. This could be seen as a continuation of the status quo with a vague promise of the possibility of traffic calming somewhere in the future.

There was one letter to the editor prompted by the story from a Chestnut Street resident. He observes that traffic frequently travels past his house at 60 to 70 km/h and this makes it very difficult to back out of his driveway safely. The solution offered by this gentleman is the installation of speed humps, but he might choose to back into his driveway to make an immediate improvement.

I found an interesting quote in the introduction to an ITE publication on Speed Control in Residential Areas:

Speeds considered excessive by residents are considered reasonable by these same persons when they are driving in another neighbourhood. Every traffic engineer has been shaken by these same residents who announce “if something is not done about the traffic problem on my street, someone is going to be killed and it will be your fault.”

The ITE document is a short guide on how to go about solving the problem that involves all stakeholders, including the missing element in this story, the residents themselves. They cannot expect to make their concerns known and then wash their hands of the problem.

The City of Parksville is doing their part as outlined. What we don’t know is where they are channelling the traffic ticket revenue the province hands back to them each year.

We don’t know what the police are doing, or if they were asked to comment. They are accountable as employees of the City and should be able to outline their perception of the traffic problem and the steps that they are taking to solve it.

We do know that they are partially hamstrung in their efforts as the Province of British Columbia will not allow automated speed enforcement.

The Traffic Watch section of the Oceanside Community Safety Volunteers is silent about how to ask them to work in your neighbourhood.

My final thought is that I wonder how many of these speeding drivers are Chestnut Street residents?


40 sounds like a good idea...

I was on a trip to Delaware as of recent and there lots of streets exactly like the one above, and they are all mostly signed at 40

The major difference they have there - "shoulder lane", the parking lane is separated with a nice solid line, making up a whole lane for residents to back-out of driveways into. The street above would "feel" perfectly safe if it had a thick white solid line dividing each lane in the middle into driving lane/parking lane. Even the concerned drivers would feel the "placebo" effect of having that extra line "separating" them from street traffic. It's a long fairly straight street with great visibility. No reason not to go 40 on it. (40mph = 64km/h)

Also, another thing about Delaware - traffic lights - their green/red stages are what feels like 3 times longer each way than in Vancouver. So by the time the red light turns to green everybody is already finished their coffee, their texting and their FaceBook feed checking, so everyone is lively and keen to get moving. Traffic seems to move much-much better there than in the Lower Mainland because here it seems that by the time the line of cars starts reacting to the green light, its already turning red :(

Speeding on residential streets

"My final thought is that I wonder how many of these speeding drivers are Chestnut Street residents?"

This old chesnut (pun intented) is often brought up in discussions with Police about speeding on any particular street.  My answer to that is: Why is that relevant? If residents are speeding they need to be treated the same as everyone else. It doesn't make any difference to the victim, who was driving the car that injured or killed them.  I often have witnessed that question raised in speeding issues but it just isn't relevant, unless the Police or other city officials are just using it as a way to deflect.  In any case it does nothing to solve the problem, if indeed there is one.

It is good to see that attitudes to speed are slowing changing.  Many communities on Vancouver Island are beginning to recognize that there are many benefits to be had by lowering speeds in residential areas, far beyond the obvious ones.  It is unfortunate though, that there are still quite a few that are unwilling to change from their car-centric mindset.

Submitted By E-Mail

Let me state that what I am outlining is not a criticism of the Police in my area, or any other area that they are responsible for enforcement. However, it is their job, which they have accepted and there is an expectation of their participation in addressing these issues.

I pay 1200.00 dollars a year as a portion of property taxes allegedly for Policing costs. I have severe concerns whether the funds are indeed used for the specific use as claimed by the city, but that is another issue.

The only reason I mention it is the PD claims they are severely underfunded and are unable to deal with traffic issues in my area. The city claims there are no funding issues or shortfalls and around and around the story goes for the last 6 years.

My point is, as with many government issues, there always seems to be many different layers of process, meetings and beaucratic tap dancing which result in the actual problems never being resolved or adequately addressed.

Solving Residential Speeding Problems

It is fairly clear that wherever you have speeding problems, there is no Pro-active traffic law enforcement to tame a particular City or neighborhood, if there was, there wouldn't be problems.

Many years ago, any Police force was comprised of a traffic section, which purpose was to control the general population and enforce written laws, those traffic sections have long since been dissolved, and members are used else where in the Police force.

In Kelowna B.C. there is a real serious issue with high speed drivers everywhere. While most people are not concerned about speeding on main roadways and highways, they are seriously concerned about their neighborhood side streets, and in particular, the street that takes them home.

The many years without traffic law enforcement has led to this situation, who do we blame for this?

Is the Mayor to blame, the City Hall, the Police force, the drivers? The Police are in charge of law enforcement, and are a paid service by the taxpayers, but very little of those tax dollars get used for traffic cops, so they are to blame for not providing adequet traffic law enforcement. But who is in charge of the Police force, that determines whether a specific City or area needs enforcement?

In our neighborhood, we have some real serious issues with speeders, as well as a big majority of drivers do not stop at Stop signs, this creates a safety issue for residents backing out of driveways, and an overall feeling that our neighborhood street has become a free for all racetrack.

It doesn't matter where you live, the solutions are all the same: Speed humps, the first thing mentioned. Speed humps work for some people and they don't for others, here in Kelowna they have been proven ineffective and annoying.

The real solution is a crackdown on speeding, which requires a full blown traffic section, but this is never an option for concerned residents. We get told that there isn't money for more traffic members. Common sense will tell you that ticket revenue will be much more than the cost of the officers, so it's a win win situation for the Police force and the residents who are at wits end with the stupidity.

Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing Grants

The City of Kelowna received over $1.5 million from traffic fine revenue sharing in 2016.

An RCMP constable costs the city (I'm guessing, as I cannot find a reference to it in a search engine) about $150,000 per year. If all of the traffic fine revenue was spent on more traffic policing, that would mean 10 constables available to do traffic enforcement.

It would be interesting to know where Kelowna spent this money.

Traffic Fine Revenue - Where did the money go?

Thats some interesting information on fine revenue.

Also, knowing where the money went would be a good question for the Council members.


Traffic fine revenue sharing

Tim, where did you find the numbers for traffic fine revenue sharing?  I have searched the Government of BC website and also my local municipality.  There are lots of mentions of the program but no specifics.

Document Link

There is a link in the response that lists all the municipalities in BC if you missed it.

I found it in a Google search and it is located in the BC Government News on the provincial government web site. I might have had a bit of an advantage as I knew roughly what the name of the document was.

A Potential Two Step Solution

Chestnut Street is a connector between locations in west Parksville and facilities along west Despard Avenue or destinations south via the Alberni Highway.  No information was provided regarding the times of the day and days of the week that problematic speeding occurs along Chestnut Street.  This analysis assumes that the worst speeding on Chestnut Avenue is southbound.

Some information can be obtained from aerial photographs.

  • Tire markings on the pavement at the intersection of Chestnut Street and Hirst Avenue indicate that the dominant movement of vehicles between the two roadways is to or from west Hirst Avenue.
  • Tire markings on the pavement of Despard Avenue at its intersection with Chestnut Street – particularly erosion of the eastbound solid lane edge line – suggest that many vehicles do not come to a full stop before turning from Chestnut to Despard.
  • Google Maps shows two paths from the west end of Hirst Avenue to south of the Despard Avenue intersection on the Alberni Highway.  Although Google Maps shows the Moillet Street route to be the preferred choice – due to it being slightly shorter, drivers travelling between west Hirst Avenue and south on the Alberni Highway would likely choose the Chestnut route because it has fewer mandatory and potential stops and thus lower driver workload and shorter net travelling time.

Several groups of drivers are likely to travel between west Hirst Avenue and west Despard Avenue facilities.  These include:

  • Persons going to and from the off-leash dog park at random times of the day and days of the week
  • Staff going to the Springwood Elementary School – before 9 a.m. on school days
  • Parents driving students to Springwood Elementary School – before 9 a.m. on school days
  • Staff going to and from the Trillium Lodge or Oceanside Health Centre – before 9 a.m. on work days and at shift change times
  • Visitors, patients and service people going to and from Trillium and Oceanside at various times of the days and days of the week.

It does not seem characteristic of members of these groups to be chronic speeders. 

To the extent that people are consistent in their behaviour, it seems likely that drivers speeding on Chestnut Street will also fail to stop completely before proceeding onto Despard Avenue and will also speed along Despard Avenue.  Two strategies arise from this assumption:

  1. The first is to reduce undesirable driver behaviours by enforcing compliance with the Chestnut Street stop sign at Despard Avenue and by enforcing compliance with the speed limit on Despard Avenue.  (It is assumed that apprehending drivers on Despard Avenue is preferable to stopping them on Chestnut Street.)
  2. The second is to reduce the benefits of the Chestnut/Despard path to the Alberni Highway by making it less attractive than the Moillet/Despard path or the Moillet/Bernard path.  (This assumes that diverting traffic from Chestnut to Moillet is acceptable.)  The first part of this strategy is to enforce Chestnut/Despard compliance as described above.  The second part is to convert the two-way through/two-way stop control at Moillet Street and Despard Avenue to a four-way stop.  If the use of Bernard Avenue to access the Alberni Highway southbound is unfavourable long term, changing Moillet/Despard from a four-way stop to two-way through on Moillet could occur at an appropriate time.

One of the things we found

One of the things we found out working traffic complaints for speed in residential neighborhoods is that the majority of violators that we cited, were homeowners in the area.  They were the most vocal about the speeding problem.  Also seemed to work the same for stop sign violators as well.


My dad used to live on 90th

My dad used to live on 90th avenue in Edmonton. Aside from the prolofic speeders, there were people openly road racing.

One day, he made 2 really nice signs. One said, "speed trap ahead", and the other said, "police radar ahead".

He put them at both ends of his street.

He told me later that it was pretty tame on 90th, for the 2 weeks that the signs were there. He also said that it took 6 months for the usual shenanigans to resume.

And to think.....for the first 18 years of my life, I thought he was square.

A creative solution

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