Nervous times at the Greenfield Avenue crosswalk: Pedestrian safety at risk yet again as traffic lights knocked out

Tara Hogeterp

With no operational traffic light at the dangerous GreenfieldConcord North intersection, residents are once again left to fend for themselves to cross the busy street

With no operational traffic light at the dangerous Greenfield-Concord North intersection, residents are once again left to fend for themselves to cross the busy street,

The pedestrian lights have been knocked out again along Greenfield Avenue – a frustrating and dangerous situation that needs to be resolved quickly.

The culprits appear to be trucks turning around after getting lost. The last time this happened, the lights were rendered inoperable for months before finally being reinstalled on October 4th, only to be knocked out yet again on November 16th – a span of just 43 days in operation.

The crosswalk design itself is not ideal as many drivers fail to see the flashing lights, particularly during the day, but the pedestrian lights still make for safer crossing than when there are no lights at all. Without the flashing lights, one needs to be an aggressive pedestrian to get drivers to stop, by stepping out onto the road to be seen standing waiting to cross.

This is not an acceptable situation and certainly not a step that anyone – especially the elementary, middle and high school students trying to get to school – should have to take in order to cross the busy street.   When asked what impact the lights being knocked out yet again has on him, local elementary student Jackson Hughes said, “I just stand there looking at drivers as they carry on with their day. I have to stand there and wait until someone sees that I am trying to cross because I can’t just walk onto the street – it’s just too dangerous.”

Residents of the Greenfield Annex neighbourhood have long been advocating for a safe crossing on Greenfield. In August 2017, a crosswalk was installed (with no lights) which drivers rarely stopped at during the day (and almost never at night). Then, in July 2018, lights were installed, and the crosswalk became safer, but sadly the lights were knocked down twice by April 2019.

Carol Hall, the City’s Associate Director of Public Works, informed The Mainstreeter that “There are occasional instances of flashers malfunctioning due to technical issues, as well as occurrences of large vehicles hitting the flashers. “Following each occurrence, staff are deployed to ensure the prompt repair of the pedestrian crossover (PXO).

Depending on the damage and the nature of the repair, it is sometimes necessary to send the unit to a third-party vendor, which can take several weeks before the unit is returned. Staff are actively working to resolve the current flasher malfunction at Greenfield Avenue and Concord Street, and it is expected to be repaired in the coming weeks,” Hall stated.

Given the amount of time it takes to repair the lights and the cost of doing so, members of the community have given a lot of thought to how best to solve the safety concerns, and some good ideas have emerged. Area resident Jim Strang believes the best solution would be to 1) reduce the southern tip of the island on Greenfield to provide more space for trucks and other vehicles to turn around, 2) encase the light in concrete to make it more difficult for vehicles to knock it over, and 3) erect “No Truck” signs at the Greenfield entrances to Concord (both sides), Havelock, and Montcalm streets.

However, others in the community are frustrated by prior delays and concerned about the time it would take to implement a solution this comprehensive, leaving pedestrians vulnerable to inattentive drivers in the interim. Hughes has his own ideas – “I think a good solution would be to just put a stop sign there. That would be fine and the simplest thing. I think then most of the people that drive past would stop.”

For his part, Strang expressed concerns with the suggestion to add stop signs on Greenfield, worrying that they “will dramatically increase both the pollution level and the noise level in the vicinity of the intersection as cars, trucks and large buses brake and then accelerate after making a full stop. [It will] back up traffic in both directions on Greenfield and result in even more impatient horn honking.”

Speaking for the City, Hall indicated that, “This intersection will ultimately be redesigned and upgraded to a pedestrian signal as part of the Greenfield-Main-Hawthorne Project. The City is currently reviewing the contractor’s proposed schedule for construction. Once the project schedule is finalized, staff will be able to communicate the proposed timing of the pedestrian signal installation as part of the larger capital project.”

But with the lights currently out of operation, residents are hoping that a solution can be implemented quickly. City Councillor Shawn Menard shared residents’ frustrations with the outage and advised The Mainstreeter that leading up to the construction “staff have agreed to review the placement of the poles to get them out of the way of trucks, and . . . are also inquiring about other barriers to protect the pedestrian crossover (PXO). Further, when the PXO has been knocked out of commission, we have asked that temporary traffic calming be implemented to provide a safer crossing for pedestrians.”

Filed in: Front Page

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