King and University to get overhaul

king and uni - heather davidson

Between 2007 and 2012, 121 pedestrian incidents occurred at King Street and University Avenue, 55 more than the total projected by the city of Waterloo. (Photo by Heather Davidson)

In recognition of the danger the high volume intersection has posed to pedestrians, the Region of Waterloo is now taking steps to implement safety measures at the King St. and University Ave. crosswalks.

Pedestrian countdown signals have already been installed, while improved lighting, painting ladder crosswalks onto existing walkways and implementing setback crosswalks, which  are situated five-to seven metres back from the corners of the intersection, will be also be implemented. Sean Strickland, a regional councillor representing Waterloo, requested to have regional staff look into safety measures at the intersection last year.

“It’s currently ranked sixth out of the worst ten intersections in the region. Pedestrian safety was a paramount concern so I asked staff to have a look to see what we could do,” said Strickland.

The King and University intersection is identified as the busiest in the Region, with an estimated 40,000 cars and 6,000 pedestrians passing through on a daily basis. Between September 2007 and September 2012, a total of 12 pedestrian collisions occurred. Including non-pedestrian related incidents, 121 collisions occurred during this time frame compared to an expected 66.

Strickland expects that the new measures will generate positive change.

“I think the recommendations are quite good,” he said. “As a total package, I think you’re going to see improved pedestrian-vehicle safety at that corner.”
City of Waterloo councillor Mark Whaley believes that changes are “going in the right direction,” but that they aren’t taking into consideration a huge part of the problem — pedestrians.

“There is a lot going on at this intersection,” Whaley commented. “When you add in the fact that students are distracted when they’re walking across these roads, it’s a recipe for disaster.”

He continued, “This is one of the highest intersections for pedestrian accidents in this region. I believe that vehicles play a smaller role in that. Distracted pedestrians play a larger role. All the work that the Region has been doing hasn’t taken this into account.”

He identified that phones and other electronic devices distract people from focusing on the road when crossing at the busy intersection, something which he believes to be a recent phenomenon.

Strickland added, “I encourage pedestrians and motorists to take caution, of course, when they’re driving or crossing at all times, but in particular at this intersection. That might mean for drivers and pedestrians when you’re crossing the road to look at the traffic and not at your cell phone.”

Whaley believes that this is an opportunity for local government to collaborate with the universities to conduct research on distracted pedestrians and ways to reduce this hazard.

One of the measures considered by staff that was not recommended for implementation is a pedestrian scramble, in which all lights are turned red simultaneously to allow pedestrians to cross in all directions. Staff identified in their report increasing pedestrian and vehicle delays and lack of coordination with other signals as potential detriments.

“The pedestrian scramble I think is something that could still be considered in the future if these measures that are currently being taken don’t work,” said Strickland,

According to Strickland, the success of the new safety measures will be evaluated in a year’s time.

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One Comment

  1. They should put a scramble intersection at University and King, like they have at Bay and King, Bloor and Dundas, and Yonge and Bloor in Toronto. You know where its a four way stop and you can cross the street diagonally. Its fantastic. Drivers will hate it, but even if the scramble was set to go only function at periods outside of rush hour along with additional lighting and other improvements I think it would go a long way to making the intersection safer.

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