By Jenn Watt
Haliburton’s downtown is becoming increasingly unsafe. Not unsafe in the way a city street is unsafe – we’re still all smiling and waving to each other as usual – but the traffic congestion and pedestrian risk is increasing.
Summer visitors and summer attractions are the culprits, but in this case, culprits we want to encourage. They fill Highland and York streets with children’s giggles and shopping bags stuffed with beach towels and fresh lettuce. Their cars crowd the parking lots for the Art and Craft Show, powerboat races, the Rotary carnival and Tuesday’s incredibly popular farmers’ market.
Haliburton Village is bustling. That is the news we all want to hear. But with it comes necessary upgrades.
The intersection of Highland and York has been dangerous for a long time. Even when traffic is lessened and fewer pedestrians are on the streets, it is still risky to turn left from Cedar (beside the Echo) onto Highland Street because parked cars reduce visibility of oncoming traffic. As the main street in town, sometimes Highland is so packed with cars (even in January) that to drive straight through can take many minutes.
Minutes on paper sound miniscule, but to an impatient driver, it can lead to ill-considered actions.
My own car was once hit by an oncoming vehicle at that intersection whose driver had tried to gun it across heavy traffic and was hit on the way through. That was mid-winter about four years ago.
Since that time, the provincial, federal and local governments have invested millions in a streetscape project that improved the look and walkability of the town. York Street sidewalks were widened and courtesy crosswalks were installed. One sidewalk takes you right up to the northwest corner of Highland and York and leaves you there with no crosswalk or westbound sidewalk to continue on.
It has been suggested that pedestrians should walk back into the heart of the town, get to the courtesy crosswalk by the real estate office and then walk back the other direction rather than dash across, but in reality it’s hard to imagine anyone doing that.
A recent study commissioned by Dysart et al has found that the intersection warrants a light – at least when taking into account summer traffic. The study’s author, William Copeland of Tranplan Associates, suggests doing a second count during September, but it can hardly find anything to rule out the need for better safety measures at that intersection.
Haliburton is growing. It’s offering the things summer visitors and residents alike want to see and do. The town needs to support those activities by making it safe to get there.