Corkery tackling speeding

CORKERY – It was a summer of car crashes, and airplanes, in Corkery and residents are concerned speeding and reckless driving is the cause.

Over the last year and a bit there have been several motor vehicle collisions (MVC) including two fatal incidents in the Corkery area. There was a fatal, afternoon MVC on Peter Robinson Road on Aug. 9. Later that night the Ottawa Fire Service (OFS) had to perform a midnight extrication on March Road near Bearhill Road. A few days earlier on Aug. 5 the OFS extricated one from a Spruce Ridge rollover. On Sept. 6 a motorist died in a three-vehicle MVC on March Road near Greystone Drive (all covered by West Carleton Online).

While obviously not connected to driving conditions, there was also two airplane crashes in the area in 2018. A plane crashed on Old Almonte Road Oct. 16, 2018 and two planes collided mid-air near March Road on Nov. 4, 2018.

The community has shown great concern on local chat rooms and social media. The Ottawa police are always concerned when it comes to road safety. So, residents and subject matter experts met at the Corkery Community Centre Tuesday, Nov. 5 to discuss the issue and talk about potential traffic calming measures.

About eight members of the community showed up, many of them members of the Corkery Community Association board, to listen to the Safer Roads Ottawa Program’s Rob Wilkinson (SRO) and Ottawa Police Service’s (OPS) Sgt. Craig Roberts who spends one day a week in Leitrim at Traffic Enforcement headquarters working on traffic enforcement.

Traffic calming measures have been popping up in the community for the last couple of years. Three speed boards have been installed, one on Old Almonte Road, Howie Road and Corkery Road near St. Michael School, Corkery.

Edge lines have been painted on the “infamous bend” on Old Almonte Road.

Speed bumps are not being considered due to the rural nature of the community and the fact “they are not conducive to first responders.”

“There are a lot of factors that come in to play relating to their effectiveness,” Old Almonte Road resident Pierre Gravel said at the meeting.

Gravel has worked with the councillor and the OPS on the issue for a while. He was the lead organizer for the community meeting which was attached to the beginning of the community association’s regular monthly meeting.

Gravel has also been tracking the data the speedboards collect. That’s right, those digital radar guns also collect information.

“They are a deterrent,” Gravel said. “It’s not a hard set of data to rely on.”

But there is some data that paints a speedy picture.

A data set collected roughly the month before the meeting had some consistent themes.

In that time period, 12,195 vehicles travelled down Old Almonte Road past the speedboard. The fastest vehicle was clocked at 138 kilometres an hour. Only 34 per cent of that traffic respected posted speed limits.

About 2,000 vehicles travelled Howie Road in that time. The top speed clocked was 126 km/h. Forty-seven per cent of motorists respected the limits.

On Corkery Road 7,000 motorists travelled the road. The highest speed recorded was 121 km/h. Gravel pointed out the board is only about 50 feet away from a stop sign. Sixty per cent of traffic respected the limits.

“That gives you an idea on a general basis,” Gravel said.

Wilkinson had a presentation of his own, and it would be a lot like his last one.

“Every single presentation I do is focused on the exact same thing – speeding on the roads,” he said.

He pointed out Canadians lose twice as many lives on the roads as they do to gun violence. There are roughly 15,000 collisions in Ottawa per year and 40 per cent of them are related to distracted driving. About 1,000 are due to wildlife.

Wilkinson brought arm bands, bike and dog light to give out to anyone interested in being more visible on the road. He said SRO plans to work on being louder with the motorists as well.

“We want to get a lot punchier with people,” he said. “The time for being nice is over.”

Wilkinson said the SRO gives out 5,000 Slow Down For Us signs each year.

“It’s an indication we have serious problems on the road,” he said.

The OPS had been modernizing their response to illegal driving as well. The OPS recently purchased two Ford F-150 unmarked police vehicles to better police texters.

“They are doing what we call crotch texting,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said the police have to submit a lot of evidence when prosecuting these cases and the height advantage the F-150s give helps with that.

The OPS also has Const. Scarecrow on their side. A metal cutout of a police officer holding a radar gun. Wilkinson says the scarecrows do slow down traffic by an average of 10 km/h, but Const. Scarecrow was stolen three times in 10 days in the Manotick area.

“Traffic does that to people,” Wilkinson said. “It brings out an irrational response. We will be rolling this out more.”

West Carleton Online caught up with Gravel again last Friday (Nov. 8) to talk about the results of the meeting and the issue. Gravel said he has been working with the Corkery community for the last two to three years. He worked with Coun. Eli El-Chantiry and his city staff as well.

Gravel has lived on Old Almonte Road for “30-some” years. He says he’s seen a lot of fast-moving vehicles in that time.

“I see it every day,” he said. “There are no sidewalks. It’s scary if you are a pedestrian, especially at night. I’ve seen arguments between motorists and pedestrians. I think that’s what is frustrating for the community. People zipping by.”

Gravel says the city has worked hard to curb the speeding.

“They’ve done a lot,” he said. “The councillor’s office has done a lot. All the measures are helping. But it’s not as simple as just putting a sign up.”

In the summer the Corkery Community Centre, also located on Old Almonte Road, is a busy place. When soccer is going on, there are cars parked on both sides of the road, making it even more intimidating for pedestrians.

“Slowing down and moving over for a few seconds is not a big deal,” Gravel said.

But Gravel also knows what West Carleton Online knows from attending many, many community traffic meetings from Ottawa to Pembroke.

“The police say it’s often people from the community,” Gravel said. “I recognize the cars and I know they are not going to slow down. Things are improving, but there’s still too much. Sidewalks are not coming to Corkery.”

Another problem in the area is the roads are long and straight. It’s easy for the speed to sneak up on drivers.

“That’s human nature,” Gravel said.

Gravel said Sgt. Roberts insists traffic enforcement “is not about the fishing hole approach.”

Sgt. Roberts does not believe in stalking the trouble spots out at the risk of less enforcement elsewhere.

“Every now and then, if you do some enforcement,” Gravel said. “I know you can’t be there every day. I know resources aren’t there. But every once in a while.”

And Gravel continues to do his own work as well.

“We’re just going to keep on pushing and remind people to slow down,” he said. “Lately it’s been pretty quiet, which is a good thing.”

Gravel hoped to see a few more people at last week’s meeting just as a show of commitment to the issue.

“I would have liked to see a few more people attended,” Gravel said. “A lot of people seemed interested on Facebook. They were scheduled for a half hour and went well over an hour.”