Climate change is real. We see the serious consequences worldwide, and one of the major causes is excessive GHG emissions from motor vehicles. You would think our municipal leaders would do their utmost to reduce these emissions, but their traffic calming measures suggest otherwise.

Over the past few years, Montreal has been on a blitz to "calm traffic" and protect pedestrians. However, If lower accident rates is the primary goal, most traffic calming measures are far from proven, but do cause excessive emissions. Let's examine.

First, speed bumps, which force stops and starts. Montreal has added at least a thousand since 2017, on hundreds of streets that haven't had a speeding accident in decades, if ever. Speed bumps won't make these streets safer, but do cause excessive GHG emissions.

Next, each costing tens of thousands of dollars, are curb extenders. In CDN-NDG, for example, many have been built, eliminating traffic lanes, and increasing congestion and idling. And, most have been placed at intersections that have not had a pedestrian accident that anyone can remember. No additional safety here.

Many new stop signs have also been installed primarily for pedestrian safety, but when no one is crossing they provide no benefit, and plenty of emissions. Why not install pedestrian crosswalks instead, with police enforcement?

Pedestrian signals are also climatically problematic. Almost all run 24/7 and have no push buttons, and when there are no pedestrians, cars idle for nothing. In a city with hundreds of thousands of cars, trucks, and buses, this is a major source of excessive emissions. Pedestrian signals need push buttons or automated people sensors. Likewise, bus signals cause cars to idle unnecessarily, and should only activate when buses are present.

There is one traffic calming measure, in use since the 1950s, that does reduce accident rates, decreases air pollution, promotes smooth traffic flow, and is highly cost effective. It's called proper synchronization of traffic lights. Examples include Van Horne between Westbury and Legare, and Decarie between Royalmount and Cote St Catherine. You would think Montreal would insist all of its arterial and collector roads were well synchronized, especially since this was largely the case in past decades. Unfortunately, there are currently hundreds of intersections out of sync, and this leads to unnecessary red lights, speeding, and red light running. Cote St Luc Road between Robert Burns and Wilson (2 km), the Sherbrooke St overpass of Decarie (A15), and Somerled between Borden and Cavendish are examples of poor synchronization that hurts the environment everyday.

When it comes to traffic calming Montreal has a lot of explaining to do. The intent is good, but most measures are not supported by accident data, and the environmental hits are unacceptable, especially in 2021. COP26 will not focus on speed bumps or pedestrian signals, but environmental protection starts at home. Mayors and city councilors need to rethink traffic calming measures that have marginal benefit and damage the environment.

Norman Sabin


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