Redesigned street is popular but ‘you really have to keep your wits about you,’ admits mayor.
Toronto police will hit the waterfront this weekend to launch a traffic blitz on crowded Queens Quay.
In a news release issued Friday, the force said officers will be on the street Saturday and Sunday afternoon, between noon and 4 p.m., and the blitz will target “motorists, cyclists and pedestrians not obeying the rules and committing unsafe acts.”
The release said the goal of the initiative was to enforce the rules but also educate the public “on how to make Queens Quay a safe place for everyone.”
The lakeside boulevard reopened in June 2015 after a $128.9-million overhaul that took three years and was intended to allow drivers, bikers, pedestrians and public transit to coexist on the same road.
While the redesign has proved popular and Queens Quay is a favourite destination for locals and tourists, it has also prompted complaints from people who say the unfamiliar configuration is sowing confusion and conflict among road users not use to sharing the street.
Waterfront Toronto, the publicly funded agency that led the redesign, is still making adjustments like adding signs telling pedestrians to watch for cyclists at intersections where they might come into conflict, and installing additional traffic lights to discourage illegal left turns.
But potentially dangerous behaviour, like drivers illegally using the streetcar right-of-way, is still a common sight.
Mayor John Tory, who did a walk-through of Queens Quay with Toronto police officers and members of Waterfront Toronto on Friday afternoon, said he believed the redesign has been successful but people need time to get used to it.
“I think it is working as well as you can expect when this is a concept that is I think quite new for Torontonians,” he said.
The mayor said that with all the activity on Queens Quay “you really have to keep your wits about you,” and admitted that during the walk-through he accidentally wandered into the path of bicycles because he wasn’t paying attention.
But he rejected any suggestion that Waterfront Toronto had bungled the project.
“I don’t look at it that anybody made a mistake,” he said. “We’ll continue to learn, but it doesn’t mean you don’t do these things. This is part of building a modern city that is going to be shared by people who want to get around in different ways.”
Const. Barry Bates of 52 Division said that last summer there was “an extraordinary number of accidents” on Queens Quay. He estimated there were about 70 collisions between Rees. St. and York St. This year that number has declined, he said.
According to Bates, while Queens Quay has had its issues the problem is mainly with the amount of people who use the street rather than with its design.
“When you overload something, it breaks down. . . There’s no correction for that. It’s just part of being downtown in an urban environment.”
About eight uniformed police will take part in this weekend’s blitz, plus parking enforcement officers, Bates said. The service intends to concentrate on issues like cyclists riding too fast, drivers making improper turns, pedestrians crossing the streetcar right-of-way, and road users of all kinds disobeying signals.
According to Bates, the officers will favour educating people over handing out tickets. “That’s all we can do, do our best to educate. It’s an ongoing process. It’s not going to end this summer.”
Laura Feltz, who has lived in the area for six years, said she welcomed the blitz. Her eyesight is deteriorating, and she sometimes has to be extra cautious on the street, especially at night.
“You don’t have to stay too long to see people doing the wrong things,” she said.
“You’ve got people who don’t obey signals, you’ve got pedestrians who are new to this city and they’re trying to understand where they’re going and not really paying full attention.”
The rules, one more time
Confused about the redesigned Queens Quay? Don’t worry, the police are here to help. This weekend they’ll be educating (and possibly ticketing) road users who don’t follow the rules. Here are the types of behaviour they’ll be focusing on.
- Unsafe crossings: It’s not illegal to cross the street mid-block, Const. Barry Bates of 52 Division said, but with pedestrians forced to traverse both streetcar tracks and car lanes to get to the other side of Queens Quay, police will be advising people pay extra attention. “Use a crosswalk if you can,” Bates said.
- Speedy cyclists: The Martin Goodman Trail that runs along Queens Quay is a popular cycling route, but some riders seem to love it a bit too much. Many don’t heed the signs to slow down. “This is a family area,” said Const. Bates. “As far as having a wide-open bicycle track, this is not it . . . Cyclists need to slow down and share the (trail).”
- Reckless turns: A major cause of the high number of collisions last year was drivers ignoring left-turn traffic lights, particularly at the intersection with Lower Simcoe St. Waterfront Toronto has added additional signals to make it clearer to drivers when it’s safe to turn left, but police will be watching for motorists who ignore them.
- Signal scofflaws: There are separate traffic signals on Queens Quay for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and streetcars. During the blitz police will be watching for anyone who disobeys them. “Whatever group decides at one point, ‘I’m not waiting,’ it’s going to have a trickle-down effect to everybody else,” said Const. Hugh Smith.