COMMENT: Safety campaign is a sign of failure

Please Stop For Us - traffic safety sign

EDITOR’S NOTE: The “Please Stop For Us” signs are sprouting up like wild parsnip all over Stittsville and other parts of the city.  The sign pictured above is on a lamp post across the street from Par-La-Ville Park in Fairwinds, right under a stop sign that nearby residents say is routinely ignored by motorists. 

Here’s a guest post from Ottawa writer Jonathan McLeod, who says these signs are a symbol of failed policy and road design.  (This post was originally published on his blog on August 3.)  

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Recently, the city launched a new campaign to help make our streets safer. I’m not sure what you’d call it. It’s not really a safety campaign, and it’s not really an awareness campaign. Truly, it’s just an admission of guilt. The city has built horribly dangerous roads, but are willing to make nothing but the most facile gestures towards fixing them.

The project is called Slow down for us! It appears to consist of putting up lawn signs that read “Slow down for us!” and show kids playing. It’s a worthwhile message: let’s not kill children.

First, the good news; councillors are getting behind this project. Many councillors have been out putting up these signs, distributing them to residents and advertising the initiative. It’s good to see councillors getting on board with safety initiatives.

That’s it. There’s nothing else good about this project. The only reason we resort to asking residents to put up signs exhorting motorists to slow down and stop running over kids is because we over-build our roads, rely on car-centric neighbourhood design and do next to nothing to stop or punish dangerous drivers.

I would implore any councillor who has backed the Slow down for us! campaign to also back measures that will make our streets substantively safer. Any councillor who is willing to hand out these signs, but isn’t willing to do anything to actually curb traffic speed and volumes is a hypocrite.

Here’s what needs to be done: road diets, narrower lanes, wider sidewalks, raised crosswalks or intersections, bike lanes, speed bumps, bulb outs, tree cover, lower speed limits, traffic lights programmed to favour walking and bicycling…the list goes on.

However, if you value three minutes of commuting time over the safety children, handing out these signs is little more than a lie.


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10 thoughts on “COMMENT: Safety campaign is a sign of failure”

  1. It’s not an admission of guilt over dangerous roads. It’s a sign of the culture of self-entitled drivers putting their selfish driving habits ahead of safety. The roads aren’t dangerous; drivers are.

    1. I agree with Jimmy! All the signs in the world are not going to stop entitled, rule breaking motorists! I live on a corner lot where there are 2 schools in the neighbourhood. There are stop signs on that corner and one of these `please stop for us`signs. Does anyone stop. NO! At best, they slow down and creep around the corner, but maybe one driver out of 10 actually stops. Police have handed out fines multiple tomes, but nothing stops these entitled drivers. I posted about this before and someone said `rules are made to be broken`! Entitled attitude, entitled people.

  2. The problem isn’t only with road design, although I admit that speed bumps, and narrower roads do help to reduce speeds. It’s just that most drivers seem to have a sense of entitlement and just don’t care about anyone else: tailgating, failure to yield, and just basic lack of road etiquette – including speeding. But one of the most common infraction in neighbourhoods, linked to speeding of course, is failure to come to a complete stop at signed intersections, or stopping in the pedestrian right-of-way. Police blitzes are just way too few…I’m a firm believer that a handful of expensive fines and raised insurance rates for those who get caught would correct some of that behaviour – and the fees collected could help us build safer roads.

    Sadly I just don’t see a way out of this until technology takes the control of vehicles out of our hands and hands it over to computers.

  3. WHAAAA? You mean I can’t run children over?

    How about discouraging the practice of parking roughly 700 cars at the side of each lane on streets? That way kids can’t run out from between them and surprise drivers. You know it happens!

  4. Sadly, it’s all too common that people like to blame everything and everyone else for their actions. So now it’s not Jonathan’s fault if he speeds down a residential road, it’s the city and their planners. He can’t help it if the road design forces him to press harder on the gas.

    Granted perhaps we don’t design the best roadways, not enough consideration for pedestrians and cyclists but let’s be serious here, no one is forcing people to speed.

  5. Watch for our children. – Does this really mean watch for our children because I’m not willing to watch them myself? Kids will be kids, but drivers will also be drivers. It’s time for parents to be parents and accept responsibility by watching their children and teaching them how to protect themselves.

    The streets are not a playground and blaming bad drivers will not protect anyone. More traffic enforcement and more pedestrian friendly road designs can be helpful, but these are not real solutions. Streets with commuter traffic will never be safe for children to play on, nor should they be. If you expect the government or others to protect your children, you are just fooling yourself.

    1. That’s a bit short sighted. Children can tear away from mommy or daddy’s hand in a split second if something distracts them. We aren’t going to lock up our children so drivers can speed down the streets. Safety is a shared responsibility. Parents will teach their kids safety as best they can, and drivers should drive carefully as best they can.

  6. To add to the conversation, not only are our children at risk from speeding drivers, but pets are too. Our street has witnessed dogs being killed by speeding drivers. Despite trying to get a stop sign placed along our very long street, we did not quality for one, according to the city. That in itself would slow down traffic, traffic that chooses our street, Basswood, Stittsville, because unlike the streets that are parallel to it, Basswood is one long, unhampered route and cars are clipping along well over the speed limit by the time the end of the street is reached! Add snow banks to the mix and pedestrians and autos are practically within arm’s reach of each other at times. (A few times I would have been able to reach out and touch cars that are passing me, that is how close some drivers are to a pedestrian. Very scary. )They just don’t care or they are completely clueless!

  7. Another point that I would like to mention is the fact that most streets in the burbs have NO sidewalks thereby forcing pedestrians and motorist to ‘share the road’. I grew up in west Ottawa and we had sidewalks on both sides of our street allowing some measure of safety for the pedestrians. Now, you are forced to walk the dog, push the baby carriage, walk to the mailbox, etc., with cars zooming by you. No room for distractions for motorists or for pedestrians in this situation. I regularly see motorists passing my house with head down (texting?) Very scary.

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