Vaughan Road—Stop Sign Proposal Details

AMBITION

 

Make Vaughan Road a safer, better-functioning, community-friendly street by adding stop signs at intersections in place of stoplights, crosswalks and unmarked intersections.

 

PREMISE

 

Considered a minor arterial road, Vaughan Road is windy and single-laned, with mostly one-and-two story homes and a few businesses lining the vast majority of it. It is an unusual road in the heart of Toronto, effectively running from Bathurst and St. Clair to Dufferin and Eglinton, making it the only road in Toronto's grid of 2km squares which connects one corner to the other.

With increased traffic since the St. Clair streetcar was installed, coupled with overflow traffic avoiding Eglinton during subway construction, and mapping apps directing cars and heavy trucks to use the street as a cut-through, Vaughan Road has become increasingly dangerous. Though anecdotal, I have witnessed five accidents in front of my home, at the corner of Atlas Avenue, in the past two years due to drivers having difficulty entering the intersection with no stop signs to control traffic. Six doors from me at the corner of Winnett Avenue, my neighbour had a car skip the curb and drive into his foyer. I myself have been run off the road by a distracted truck driver near Wychwood Avenue, as the street encourages fast driving on a road too windy to handle it, and there are no stop signs to slow drivers down and keep them actively engaged in navigating.

As a point of comparison, the stretch of Vaughan Road which runs from Oakwood west to just shy of Dufferin, has the same speed limit but traversing it is far safer as each intersection has stop signs. There is a quietude to that portion of the road, which is partially the function of it being a shorter segment, but also because it is slowed down and made a less appealing cut-through with stop sign features at the intersections.

 

What should be a charming, functional, winding neighbourhood road in the heart of Toronto, has deteriorated into a street unsafe for cars, cyclists, commuters and pedestrians alike (of which I count myself as all four). This proposal recommends the city remove the 2 stoplights and 4 crosswalks between the Vaughan/St. Clair and the Oakwood/Vaughan sets of lights, and instead install 10-12 sets of intersectional stop signs to make the street far more safe and accessible.

(Note: The segment of road from St. Clair heading north for three blocks has a slightly different character than the rest of Vaughan Road, and may require a somewhat different treatment with regards to potentially keeping crosswalks installed.)

BENEFITS

 

For Drivers

• Make the road far safer with stop signs encouraging a decrease in speed.

• Lessen the number of accidents along the road, and the looming potential for a catastrophic accident, by alleviating the danger of making turns at intersections, which at present are harrowing even in good weather conditions. This is a crucial advantage to stop signs versus the current condition. The road was designed with semi-staggered intersections, where without stop signs it is difficult to enter the road safely at various locations.

• With many driveways along the road and few traffic lights (no stop signs), intersectional stop signs will force drivers to be more alert. This is particularly of need on a windy street.

• Though I have other suggestions for improving Vaughan Road and neighbouring streets, of particular relevance would be to enforce the current usage standard for non-emergent or local heavy trucks so the road doesn't deteriorate as quickly, and for general safety.

 

For Cyclists

• As it is, cyclists have a tenuous journey across Vaughan Road, as there is only one intermittent bike lane on the north side, and none on the south side. As well, the centre line was shifted several years ago to accommodate the north lane, so the south car lane is very narrow. Without forcing cars and buses to make frequent stops, cycling on the south side is so dangerous, most cyclists simply won't attempt it (I among them).

• Slowing traffic speed and making drivers more alert are of obvious benefit to cyclists.

• With stop signs, cyclists entering the road will do so with far greater safety and visibility.

 

For Commuters

• As someone who lives directly across from a bus stop which I regularly use, it is a game of Frogger during every rush hour (and beyond) to safely cross the street. Stop signs would almost entirely alleviate this situation.

• Crosswalks are not the answer. Beside bringing their own dangers and costs, and not being safe tools on windy streets, it would not be reasonable to install one at every intersection, nor cost-effective. Stops signs would allow commuters on either side of Vaughan Road equally safe access to buses running NW or SE.

• For those taking Wheel-Trans or being picked up by a taxi or similar service, because the street is currently treated like a freeway with no stops, drivers have very low tolerance for anyone being picked up or dropped off. Couple this with no natural breaks in traffic as would be afforded by stop signs, and stationary vehicles are very difficult to pass on this single-lane road.

 

For Pedestrians

• As with commuters, crossing the road becomes far safer with stop signs installed.

• With Vaughan Road Academy on the street, regardless of the academic tenant, having breaks in the traffic to cross is very helpful. I know parents who have kids attending other schools on a different side of Vaughan Road than where they live, and the only reason they won't allow their child to walk to school is because of how dangerous it is to cross the road. (This is not an anecdote invented for this document; it is actually a primary impetus.)

• Beyond children, the elderly, those with physical challenges, and really anyone crossing in inclement weather or at night around bendy roads, would greatly benefit from the added protection stop signs bring.

• Vaughan Road has very narrow sidewalks, which pedestrians are already vulnerable to the potential dangers of, but more so as it is treated as a minor arterial road and the speed limit is set at 40 km/h (I would push for a decrease to 30 km/h, but it's a conversation for another day). Those narrow sidewalks are made worse by the high speeds of uncontrolled traffic. This is a common complaint of residents. Stop signs would do quite a bit to stagger and slow traffic, thereby making the narrow sidewalks safer.

 

For Community Residents

• Stop signs will help keep cut-through traffic out of laneways as many drivers use the laneways to avoid more dangerous or time-consuming turns on to Vaughan Road. With gaps and right-of-ways created by stop signs, laneways will have little benefit for cutting through. We have an extensive laneway system (now appearing on apps like Waze) which needs protecting!

• There are many benefits of allowing Vaughan Road to become a more walkable, community street, instead of a freeway with narrow sidewalks. We already have problems with violence in the neighbourhood, and the street needs more attention and more encouragement to be used comfortably by all residents and visitors, and not just as a way to avoid taking a major arterial road.

• I grew up in North York, but went to school near Cedarvale Park, just a couple blocks north of Vaughan Road. There has long been a division between the sides of the street, with roots in several socio-economic issues, but which is compounded by how difficult it is to physically cross this street at each intersection. I found out recently I have a dear friend who lives literally one block north of me across Vaughan Road, and we both walk our dogs nearly every day, but we've never ran into each other in the years we each lived here. I realize these types of examples are easily dismissed, but they highlight the nature of the subtle physical impediments to community-building. This is an opportunity to bond both sides of this diverse, well-populated neighbourhood and really encourage the development of community moving forward.

Stop signs on Vaughan Road are urgently needed, as they would go a long way in an inexpensive reform, to preventing potential tragedies and to greatly reduce the various negative consequences currently experienced daily by locals and those passing through.

© 2020 Mike Gallay