By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Pedestrian crosswalks at several downtown Oshawa intersections have gone through some big changes.
Five of these crosswalks were recently updated to allow pedestrians to cross the intersection at the same time as vehicles.
Originally these intersections gave motorists an eight-second head start to proceed before the pedestrians were allowed to cross.
Steve Kemp, manager of traffic engineering and operations for Durham Region, told The Oshawa Express this system has been in place for a “long time.”
“The existing operation is unusual. I can’t think of anywhere else it exists in Ontario,” he said prior to the changes taking place.
While there is no overwhelming evidence of collisions or pedestrians being struck, Kemp notes traffic patterns have changed, and these updates will improve pedestrian safety.
The five intersections that have hanged are Centre Street/Bond Street, Centre Street/King Street, Bond Street/Simcoe Street, Simcoe Street/Athol Street, and Simcoe Street/King Street.
“Downtown Oshawa is one of the most pedestrian-heavy areas in Durham Region, so it’s important that it is a safe, pedestrian-friendly place to get around,” Kemp says. “Our team analyzed traffic flows in this area and we anticipate minimal impacts, but we want to remind drivers who travel in this area to slow down, pay attention to the changes, and obey all signs and signals.”
Kemp says the changes may be confusing at first, especially for drivers, so the region has installed signs at the intersection noting the new system.
As part of the region’s Durham Vision strategic road safety action plan, more measures may be on the way to improve pedestrian safety in downtown Oshawa, such as pedestrian countdown timers and ladder markings at pedestrian crossings.
Ward 4 city and regional councillor Rick Kerr said the unconventional crosswalks, especially that at Bond and Simcoe, can potentially cause issues.
Kerr says pedestrians walking north on Simcoe Street often watch the street lights, not the crosswalk signal, and will step off the curb when vehicles turning left have the right of way.
“It’s erring on the side of pedestrian safety. It’s a bit of a dangerous left hand turn because there is no space between the vehicle and pedestrian,” Kerr notes.