Huron County to investigate crosswalk strategy - June 21, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Blyth-area resident Julie Sawchuk is advocating for crosswalks in Blyth, one of the only Huron County villages without a safe passage from one side of its main street to the other.
Sawchuk, a member of the Huron County Accessibility Advisory Committee, spoke to Huron County Council at its June 13 committee of the whole meeting. She said that since becoming confined to a wheelchair after being hit by a car several years ago, she has had to abandon certain activities in Blyth because she can’t safely get from one side of the street to the other depending on the time of year and activities going on in town.
Aside from her own circumstances, Sawchuk also referenced those with low vision, saying that safely crossing the street in Blyth is nearly impossible. Not only is a crosswalk necessary for them, she said, but motorists do not take notice and slow down when someone is trying to cross the street.
She cited an example with Blyth girl Mikayla Ansley, a child with low vision. Even with the use of her white cane, no one stopped to let her pass when Sawchuk, Ansley and Ansley’s mother Katie ran an experiment for the accessibility committee. In correspondence to Sawchuk, Katie Ansley said no one so much as tapped their brakes for her daughter.
“There’s a lot going on in Blyth,” Sawchuk told councillors. Whether it’s increased traffic from people visiting Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company or attendees of the Blyth Festival, it’s a busy place in the summer and she said that people need to safely cross the street.
Not only would a crosswalk benefit visitors and citizens, it would also ensure that senior citizens and those differently-abled could use a little extra time to cross the street.
Sawchuk compared Blyth to neighbouring communities like Wingham and Clinton, saying that both of those communities have numerous crosswalks and traffic lights installed, whereas Blyth doesn’t have either.
Howick Reeve Art Versteeg said he was surprised when he read Sawchuk’s report to find out that Blyth didn’t have a single crosswalk. He wasn’t the only one, as several councillors expressed their surprise at the lack of a crosswalk in such a busy community.
Versteeg also suggested a solution from Listowel, a community close to him. While the community is equipped with crosswalks, there are also sidewalk bumpouts so that those wanting to cross the street are highly visible to motorists.
Huron East Mayor Bernie MacLellan said that it was his understanding that a fully-functional crosswalk with visual and audio signals would cost about $400,000. However, the crosswalk pilot project in Clinton utilizes solar technology and those can be installed in communities at a much lower cost than the standard cost of $400,000 per crosswalk.
Huron County Engineer Steven Lund said the crosswalks recently installed in Clinton cost $25,000 each, although approximately $10,000 could be added for each one if sidewalk bumpouts were included.
Councillor David Frayne, council’s representative on the Coalition for Huron Injury Prevention (CHIP) said that numerous solutions for Blyth have been put on the organization’s agenda. Not only will there be a digital speed sign placed there in the near future, but there has been talk of installing crosswalks in Blyth, Londesborough and Huron Park.
South Huron Mayor Maureen Cole said she hoped Sawchuk’s report would lead to the implementation of a county-wide strategy and policy for the installation of crosswalks. She said that while Sawchuk says there is a need in Blyth, reports need to be prepared and the whole county needs to be investigated because perhaps there is an even greater need elsewhere in the county.
Council directed staff to prepare a report on the potential for crosswalk installation in Blyth and throughout the county to be presented to council at a future meeting.