Vehicle velocities on Departure Bay Road continue to vex city council and staff.
With summer approaching, city staff turned to council for direction at a meeting Monday on what measures should be used to further slow vehicles passing Departure Bay Beach and Kinsman Park between Wingrove and Bay streets.
According to city data, about 13,000 vehicles pass that way daily, but in the summer months more cyclists and pedestrians are sharing the road or crossing to and from Departure Bay Beach.
Drivers normally drive through at six to nine kilometres per hour above the 50km/h speed limit.
In 2019 the city lowered speed limits on the stretch of road from 50km/h to 40km/h for the summer months and set up a speed display board, but those measures only caused drivers to slow down by 1-3km/h, noted a staff report. In 2020 the 40km/h seasonal speed limit was posted again, but this time traffic-calming curbs were added, which dropped speeds an additional 1-3km/h to 54km/h.
With traffic-calming measures proving relatively ineffective, additional measures were considered at Monday’s meeting, which included adding vertical deflection structures – speed humps – to the section of road for this summer.
“Staff is reluctant to put in vertical deflections … the major road and its arterial function makes vertical deflections less desirable for our partners in transit, emergency services, goods movement and city public works,” said Barbara Thomas, city assistant manager of transportation.
City staff proposed 2020’s temporary traffic-calming measures be deployed for 2021 and consult with residents and other stakeholders to explore ideas to improve pedestrian safety for the 2022 summer season.
Coun. Tyler Brown said he spends considerable time in the area and the number of crosswalks between Wingrove and Bay streets is inadequate.
“I’m curious. Has it ever been contemplated making Departure Bay Road, from Wingrove Street to Bay Street, all a crosswalk?” Brown asked “So, it would essentially be a completely shared space with speeds reduced to respect that.”
Coun. Don Bonner supported the idea and suggested adding thickness to the pavement in a “raised table” from Loat to Bay streets plus rumble strips to force drivers down to the 40km/h speed limit.
“You’ve got my full support to go hog wild on this,” Bonner said.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said he has driven the stretch of road twice a day for 38 years and thought converting the block entirely into a crosswalk would delay traffic, create frustration and wouldn’t improve safety.
“I’m not convinced we have the evidence there is the danger there,” Krog said. “There’s an anticipated danger and can be frightening and I get that, but I just have not observed what I will call serious or dangerous speeding. There’s a playground there … I think most people are terribly conscious of the high risk that area has for injury to pedestrians.”
There already is a year-round 30km/h speed limit past the playground area on Departure Bay Road.
Council voted unanimously to direct city staff to implement the same seasonal speed limit and traffic calming measures used in 2020 and initiate stakeholder consultation for further traffic calming measures for summer 2022.