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To hell with pedestrians!

An accident at Parkhurst & Bayview

An accident at Parkhurst & Bayview

That’s how I felt about people who don’t travel by car. Then the construction started for the Crosstown LRT at Bayview and Eglinton. It made me reconsider my viewpoint.

It’s funny that I would have a problem with pedestrians because anyone who knows me will tell you I’m a big walker. I like to walk everywhere. If my wife’s at The Shops at Don Mills picking up a new dress, I’ll walk through Wilket Creek and up to the mall where we’ll have a snack before heading home in the car.

It’s what I do.

But in the course of all my walking, I’ve come across a lot of really dumb pedestrians, who pay more attention to their silly little phones than remaining aware of what’s happening around them.

However, living within a stone’s throw of the intersection at Bayview Ave. and Parkhurst Blvd. for the last eight years, I’ve come to appreciate the difficulties faced by runners, walkers, bikers, and anyone else who gets around without a car.

I walk south on Bayview first thing in the morning to get a coffee. I do the same in the afternoon during my work break. My short traverse across Parkhurst from the north to the south side by the Remax office becomes an honest-to-goodness nightmare as I negotiate between cars trying to cross Bayview illegally.

It’s as if I’ve suddenly become a character out of The Exorcist. The one with the head spinning around. Quite literally, you take your life into your hands every time you are anywhere near this intersection.

Pleas from nearby residents to do something to make the intersection safer led to the city’s Transportation Services department recommending signs to prohibit cars from cutting across Bayview from Soudan eastbound to Parkhurst and vice versa between 7 and 9 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m. Also, cars were prevented from turning left onto Bayview from either street during the same hours. The rules took effect last December.

In my opinion, the signs have done little to make the intersection safer. Above is a picture I took from a recent accident. Note the TTC bus crossing into the southbound lanes to get around the three-car pileup.

The only solution that makes sense is a traffic light.

As someone who writes about business for a living, I can say without hesitation that both Parkers Cleaners and Remax Real Estate, the businesses closest to the intersection, would also likely prefer a traffic light over any other possible solution.

How do I know this?

Because you would have to be an idiot not to want a safer environment for your clients to come and go.

On top of this, when I heard that the South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association had worked out a win/win solution with the Brown Group for its mixed-use development on the west side of Bayview between Soudan and Hillsdale Ave., it seemed a traffic light was a no-brainer.

“Quite literally, you take your life into your hands every time you are anywhere near this intersection.”

Even the BA Group’s December 2014 transportation study commissioned by the Brown Group recommended a traffic light.

“Signalization may be desirable from a number of perspectives. These include an improvement in side street traffic operations on Soudan Avenue/Parkhurst Boulevard, and an enhancement of pedestrian crossing conditions (i.e. protected and accessible) with replacement of the existing cross-walk with a full traffic signal control,” stated the report. “It is recommended that the City consider the benefits to introducing signal control at this location.”

While I haven’t spoken to Ward 22 Councillor Josh Matlow, it’s my understanding that he, and the residents on Soudan, favour a traffic signal at the intersection.

The fly in the ointment appears to be the residents living on Parkhurst.

They, along with Councillor Jon Burnside and the South Leaside Traffic Committee (SLTC), oppose a traffic light, arguing it will increase the flow of traffic on Parkhurst, a street that wasn’t designed for high volumes.

“If you put a light in you are facilitating the movement of traffic in both directions on Parkhurst and Soudan crossing Bayview avoiding the intersection of Bayview and Eglinton,” the councillor told me. “So, people talk about safety. Parkhurst is a local road. It’s not even designed to collect traffic in the community, never mind through it.”

While I understand the argument, you could say the same thing about Fleming Cres. and even Millwood Rd., their widths being virtually identical.

SLTC’s recommendations

John Burns, who served on the SLTC over the three years it examined Leaside’s traffic issues, suggests Parkhurst gets as many as 3,500 cars traveling on sections of that road, 40% higher than it is designed to carry.

My only rebuttal to that would be to ascertain in what year the 2,500 limit was established by the city. If it was 1990, or even 2000, the city’s grown substantially since then. The numbers might no longer be valid.

The SLTC compared three years of accident data at five different Leaside intersections where there are traffic lights against accident data from Parkhurst and Bayview. Except for Eglinton and Sutherland Dr., Parkhurst and Bayview had the most at 36, and that was before the LRT construction got underway.

“Putting a traffic light in at the intersection would probably result in as many, if not more accidents as it would increase traffic on Parkhurst/Soudan and when coupled with the volume on Bayview, could exceed the total intersection volumes at some of the intersections already having traffic lights,” John Burns wrote in an email to me. “One of the major problems with lights is that they cause accidents with people running the reds.”

So, the SLTC and Councillor Burnside concluded that the turn restrictions and prohibition of through traffic were the best solution from some less than perfect options.

A report from the city is expected in September that studies the effectiveness of this solution in its first six months being in place. Depending on what that research finds, Councillor Burnside believes the prohibition of through traffic should be extended to all hours of the day.

Finally, if pressure comes from anywhere in the community, whether Councillor Matlow’s office or the city’s transportation department or somewhere else, the thing to do is hold a community meeting to discuss the best options available.

In the end, I believe the needs of a small group of residents are getting in the way of pedestrian safety at the intersection.

If the city won’t install a traffic light – I’m told they’re considering moving the crosswalk north or south of Parkhurst away from the intersection, a move that does little for pedestrians like myself walking north or south – the next best solution would be to install a concrete barrier at the mouth of both Parkhurst and Soudan.

That wouldn’t make Remax or Parkers very happy, nor the people living on either street, who could no longer get to Bayview, but it sure would put a smile on the face of pedestrians. Pedestrians shouldn’t have to walk Bayview or cross it for that matter in fear. They just shouldn’t.

Pedestrians deserve better.