Wednesday, November 28, 2001


NEWS photo Mike Wakefield

CARSON Barclay stands abreast one of four controversial speed humps located just opposite Riverside Daycare. Nearby parents welcome the anti-speed measures, but other residents feel the humps should go.

Bumpy ride for Riverside speed humps

Ian Barraclough Contributing Writer

ANTI-SPEEDING measures on Riverside Drive may have calmed traffic, but they have left some residents upset.

Since the installation of four speed humps to restrict speeding motorists, the division of opinion has widened and tempers have frayed. Groups have solidified into two opposing camps both for and against keeping the humps on Riverside Drive.

For many years, residents in this family neighbourhood had lobbied North Vancouver District council to take action against speeders in their area. Concern was for the safety of pedestrians, not least the dozens of pre-teen and school aged children living near Riverside. As a result, the speed limit oscillated from 50 km/h to 40 km/h and back again.

Yet traffic reports indicate that it was not uncommon to find motorists exceeding 60 km/h, especially during peak commute times, adding a more literal meaning to the phrase "rush hour."

Frustration over a lack of speed controls and the resulting impact on pedestrian safety led to a debate on how best to resolve the issue. As a result, the district initiated a consultation process back in February to solicit feedback from residents and discuss suggestions for tackling the problem. This resulted in a mail survey and neighbourhood workshop sessions to investigate the options available for traffic calming in the area.

Context Research Ltd. provided the district with a traffic calming project report in July with recommendations for action. Context found unanimous support for improving street lighting, sidewalks, road signage plus consensus for repairs to make manhole covers flush with the road surface. However, the degree of support for speed hump installation was divided along geographical lines with residents along the south end of Riverside more likely to support the humps than their neighbours to the north.

District council gave the go-ahead in July for the installation of four speed humps towards the south end of Riverside Drive. Since then, groups representing both sides of the issue have become active in asserting their position.

Ray Burns, co-chair of the Seymour Valley Community Association, and a resident on Riverside Drive, supports the measures taken. Referring to life on Riverside before the humps, he notes that, "Cars whipped by houses so fast that accidents were inevitable. There were five or six rogue drivers a day who just floored it."

Indeed Burns, as a victim of reckless driving, has hard evidence to support his argument - there is obvious damage to his driveway, torn up as a result of a speeding motorist mounting the sidewalk. "If someone had been standing here at the time, they would have been killed," Burns said.

However, other residents question whether the humps are the most appropriate measure, and have become increasingly vocal. A group in favour of having the humps removed immediately is headed by Phil Holland. Not only is Holland building support for his campaign for removing the humps, he is also calling into question the methodology used by Context to form their conclusions.

"We have a concern about the size of the majority that the survey claims to have received, and the limited response upon which its conclusions are based - but the decision went forward by council anyway."

At the council meeting on Sept. 4, William Schuurman of Rivergrove Place also questioned the public input process and survey results.

Schuurman is most concerned that what has happened is less to do with grassroots democracy in action, and more to do with the success with the other group's lobbying efforts. Furthermore, both Schuurman and Holland are of the opinion that the district has not played by its own rules in going ahead with the speed hump installation - specifically, that not enough support was solicited to justify the decision to go ahead. Instead, they claim that this was just an affordable fix that suits the needs of a few.

"What has happened is that the advisory group had a solution in mind, and they were working to impose that solution" said Schuurman.

In response, Holland and other volunteers initiated their own questionnaire for local residences to indicate whether the humps should stay or go.

As with the district survey, Holland's results demonstrate that the further south you live along Riverside, the more likely you are to favour retaining the humps. As the findings of the Context report points out, the strength of support appears to mirror the risks involved in that residents towards the south feel more prone to the impact of speeding motorists.

Holland claims that his petition received much stronger support than those commissioned by the district, in that of the 261 residences canvassed, only 19 declined to respond, and 32 could not be reached for their opinion. This contrasts against the 116 area residents who responded to the neighbourhood survey by Context.

The results of the informal survey led to a recommendation to council by Holland on Oct. 15 for the removal of the humps on the basis that his team claimed support from 72.5 per cent of the residences as a result of making contact with 88 per cent of area households.

District council noted the results of his informal survey, but also heard from another resident of Riverside, Ann Solheim, who voiced concern over bias in the way in which the poll was conducted and uneasiness with the harassing attitude she felt was presented by some of those conducting the survey. She recommended that council disregard the findings.

Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the humps that have been installed are two centimetres higher than intended.

This has done nothing for the frayed tempers of those steadfastly against the humps. Road signs warning of the humps have been vandalized and opposing drivers have been sounding their horns in protest when driving over the humps. Even the contractors brought in to paint white warning chevrons on the road have been threatened by angry opponents. The RCMP were brought in to to hold the peace long enough to allow the contractors to finish their job.

Paula Barclay, who runs Riverside Daycare, located close to where the humps have been installed, notes that some drivers are still speeding regardless of the new measures.

"You can hear the tires chirping as they go over the humps."

Jean Swanson, a grandmother taking Devon, her four-year-old grandson to daycare, lamented that, "It's sad that these people are less concerned with safety than getting to work a few seconds earlier."

The honking of horns in protest shows no sign of abating. "The honkers get braver after dark. You can hear them all hours of the night," Barclay said.

Richard Zerr, director of planning, engineering, parks and regulatory services for the district will be meeting with the RCMP today at the Parkgate Community Centre to discuss the issue.

A group of residents proportionally representing both sides has also been invited to attend to present their arguments.

"I want to hear first-hand what these people have to say" said Zerr. "We are currently monitoring technical data that will be sent to council mid-December, and we will continue to monitor the street and further public meetings will be held once the monitoring is complete."

It is obvious that more common ground will need to be found if the emotional bumps caused by the humps are to be ironed out once and for all.