Attempts at traffic calming in the Cloverley neighbourhood continue to bring as much anger as they do calm.
Since 2016, council has been consulting with residents in the neighbourhood and trying different combinations of one-way streets and right-turn restrictions in hopes of dissuading commuters from using the residential streets as a shortcut when bridge traffic backs up on Keith Road.
The latest iteration of the plan funnels most of the rat-runners down the 700 block of East Fifth Street and the 800 block of East Sixth Street, drawing a contingent of neighbours to city council Monday night.
“It created a myriad of problems,” said Fifth Street resident Miles Norman. “Short cutting and speeding down alleyways, windfall gains of quiet streets for some with massive traffic volume increase and misery for others. It generated acrimony in the neighbourhood and it created obvious pedestrian safety concerns due to the non-linear flow of traffic.”
After months collecting data, city staff found the overall number of people who use the neighbourhood as a shortcut didn’t actually go down after traffic calming measures were put in place, it just sent them on more circuitous routes.
On bad days, Fifth Street went from accommodating an average of 81 vehicles per hour to 391, while Fourth Street, which was made one-way westbound, dropped from an average 386 vehicles per hour to just 10.
Norman and other affected residents urged council to simply restrict right turns onto Keith during rush hour.
“Its merits include removing the entire motivation to cut through the neighbourhood. It’s a more equitable sharing of a solution-based strategy,” he said.
Though staff were recommending council leave things as-is and wait to see how the Lower Lynn interchange improvements impact traffic flows, Mayor Linda Buchanan said it was time to seek some outside help.
Buchanan brought forward a motion to hire a third-party traffic expert to review the city’s work to date and come up with recommendations with a deadline of July 12.
In the meantime, Buchanan’s motion directs city staff to work with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to install digital message boards along Keith Road and East Third that will give real-time travel estimates for drivers to reach the bridge, as well as work with District of North Vancouver to improve the signal timing on the new Keith Road/Brooksbank Avenue traffic light and continue to monitor the neighbourhood’s traffic conditions and have the RCMP conduct enforcement of the existing rules.
Buchanan noted that in three years, council has been unable to find a consensus for what works for the neighbourhood as a whole
“When we go to relieve measures in one block, we have another block that’s not happy,” she said. “And so, it has caused a significant amount of conflict and for that, as mayor, I am extremely apologetic.”
At the request of Coun. Don Bell, the traffic engineer will explicitly be asked to consider banning right hand turns from Adderley, Cloverley, and Shavington streets, and left turns from Heywood Street onto Third Street between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m. After many phone calls and emails, Bell said he believed the neighbourhood as a whole would accept those changes.
Only Coun. Holly Back voted against the motion, arguing Cloverley residents had been given the runaround long enough.
“We keep talking about livable, walkable safe neighbourhoods and we’ve created just the opposite in that neighbourhood,” she said. “They’re not asking for more consultation. They’re asking us to implement that now. Summer is coming. They want safety in their neighbourhood now.”
But CAO Leanne McCarthy warned that making immediate changes could open the city up to legal liability as the plan hadn’t been vetted by either the RCMP or fire department.
In closing Buchanan called attention to bigger picture in the traffic fiasco: the North Shore needs better public transit and more affordable housing.
“The reality is, this volume of traffic that we’re seeing at the peak times, that’s running through your neighbourhood from 3 to 6 p.m. is the working-age people who come to our community every day to do their jobs but they can’t afford to live here,” she said. “Those are people who are wanting to get home to their families and are trying to find the means and ways of getting there.”
Following the meeting, Fifth Street resident Olav Langelaar said he felt he had been listened to, but was still being guardedly optimistic about whether the new process would result in a more equitable outcome.
“If I was on city council and I saw that this experiment had failed this miserably and saw this many people upset, I wouldn’t be trying to put more Band-Aids on it,” he said.