Ottawa pilot program adds new dimension to slowing down traffic
Motorists pumped their brakes on Friday afternoon as they approached two odd shapes on a straightaway behind the Elmvale Acres Shopping Centre, perhaps giving credibility to a city pilot program for 3D road markings.The markings look like two Star Trek Starfleet logos pressed onto Othello Avenue. They’re designed so that approaching motorists think the markings are speed bumps, slowing down traffic.Alta Vista Coun. Jean Cloutier said the thermal plastic markings cost $3,500 to install, cheaper than installing real speed bumps.Councillors are always looking for ways to reduce the speed of neighbourhood traffic.“If it’s successful, it will be a tool in the tool box for councillors to use,” Cloutier said Friday.Cloutier said the city opted for thermal plastic over standard paint because the material resists fading and has a texture.(The city, meanwhile, is struggling to keep up with the budget requirements for replacing vanishing paint.)One road safety advocate thinks the city is “chickening out” by taking a pass on more meaningful traffic-slowing measures.Graham Larkin, executive director of Vision Zero Canada, doesn’t think 3D road markings have much benefit because motorists will quickly catch on.“If the concern is hitting vulnerable road uses, then what they should do is set appropriate (speed) limits and use calming measures to bring it down to that limit if people aren’t naturally driving that,” Larkin said.The Ottawa-based Larkin, who has lived in Alta Vista, called the new road markings “pretend infrastructure.”If the city is eager to test new traffic calming measures, Larkin said, Othello Avenue — where the speed limit is the 50-km/h would be a good location. Vehicular traffic is steady, since it’s a neighbourhood cut-through between Smyth and Pleasant Park roads.Cloutier said he asked for the 3D markings pilot program to be on the street when he learned the city was looking into traffic-calming measures.Real speed bumps aren’t always the answer to speed problems since they also impact city finances, snow plow operations and the quality of life of residents because of annoying construction vibrations, Cloutier said.“In some places, they’re appropriate, but not always,” Cloutier said.According to Cloutier, the city looked at traffic data from similar markings used in London, England and saw positive results.The city will monitor data from before and after the markings were installed. The pilot program is scheduled to last at least one year, but there is no set end date.“Only time will tell whether this is effective in traffic calming,” Cloutier said.As for motorists learning quickly that there aren’t real speed bumps on the road, Cloutier said the markings still serve a purpose.“It will always be a visual reminder to slow down,” he said.
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