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Region of Waterloo report puts roundabout safety under the microscope

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Roundabouts are under the microscope in Waterloo region as regional councillors are reviewing the safety of the road design following a pair of serious collisions involving pedestrians.

Intersections like the one at Erb Street and Ira Needles Boulevard in Waterloo are under renewed focus following a pair of serious crashes in December just days apart involving pedestrians at roundabouts -- including a fatality.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking sometimes,” said Waterloo region resident Nicholas.

The Region of Waterloo has prepared a report focusing on road safety concerns, which shows there are an average of four injury collisions every day in the region.

On Monday, a pair of pedestrian-involved crashes again brought the issue into focus after a 58-year-old man in Cambridge was sent to an out-of-region hospital with serious injuries, while a pedestrian and two others were hurt in a Kitchener crash at a busy intersection.

Despite the recent incidents, the road safety program report indicates roads are getting safer.

“There is a level of, I guess, heightened anxiety because you’re looking at many different things,” said Region of Waterloo Coun. Colleen James.

Adding: “There’s still a lot of work to be done, education to be done, but also navigating some of the things that have come up in council like speeding.”

A ten-year trend ending in 2020 shows the number of vehicular collisions per capita has been on the decline. The same is shown for pedestrian collisions.

When it comes to fatal crashes, there's a steep drop in the trend with an uptick from 2019 to 2020.

“The research does show that the fatalities and the seriousness of accidents are far less with roundabouts, but I do think as we continue to grow, it’s going to be an adjustment for the community,” said Coun. James.

The report said what does not work to slow traffic and make roads safer is lower posted speed limits and traffic control. Localized police enforcement, driver feedback signs and special pavement markings.

What does work, according to the report, is urbanizing roads, narrower lanes, raised medians and refuge islands, driveways and developments close to roads.

When it comes to crosswalks versus signalized intersections, the report indicates in nearly every case where a traffic signal is installed collisions have jumped.

There are plans to continue evolving intersection design, including protected intersections, as well as a study on traffic calming in rural hamlets, and reviews of all-way stops, and pedestrian crossings.

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