Having first moved to the Collingwood area in 1985, I like many others have witnessed a sharp increase in the amount of traffic in the southern Georgian Bay area overall.  Making a left hand turn almost anywhere has become a real challenge.  Intersections that were once a two way stop seem to get transformed into a four-way stop only to at a later date, be converted into a traffic light.

A recent article in Simcoe.com titled “Ministry defers plans to rebuild Hwy.26 intersection in Clearview to 2023” explains the Ministry of Transportation’s plan to install a traffic light at the intersection of Highway 26 and County Road 96 north of Stayner.  County Road 96 has become the bypass that many people take around Stayner on their way to Barrie or south to the Greater Toronto Area.

There is no question that with the increased volume of traffic this has become a very busy and potentially dangerous intersection as have others in the area, requiring that something be done but a traffic light?  First, Highway 26 is exactly what the name implies, it’s a provincial highway and as such it begs the question, is a traffic light on a “highway” the best option?  Second, given my own observations and those of others, drivers running stale yellow and red lights is an everyday occurrence as are jumping advanced green lights for left turns making both four-way stops and traffic light controlled intersections not as safe as we would like to believe they are.

Over the past few years we have seen an increasing number of roundabouts get constructed in the southern Georgian Bay area including two not far from the intersection in question at Highway 26 and Mosley Street Wasaga Beach.  Additional roundabouts are in place at Highway 26 and Poplar Side Road, Poplar Side Road and High Street in Collingwood as well as on Mountain Road out at Blue Mountain Resort.  Construction of a new roundabout has been started to replace the traffic light at Mountain Road and Osler Bluff Road.  Over the years that they have been in place, I have yet to see an accident at any of these roundabouts although I am sure they have been some.  At the same time accidents are a regular occurrence at traffic light controlled intersections such as First Street (Highway 26) and Cedar Street, First and High Streets and others.

Four years ago my wife and I spend a month touring the north and south islands of New Zealand in a motorhome.  We logged over 6,000 kilometres and saw little more than a handful of traffic lights primarily in cities such Auckland and Christchurch.  Everywhere throughout New Zealand traffic flowed smoothly and safely through roundabouts  Never did we see a traffic accident in a roundabout and keep in mind, in New Zealand they drive on the opposite side of the road from us in right hand drive vehicles.  New Zealand’s road also handle a large volume of transport trucks as it is the main way in which freight is moved.

Closer to home, the city of Sudbury prepared a “Comparable Analysis: Roundabout vs Signalized Intersection” for one of the city’s various intersections.  In that report it was stated: Studies completed in the United States have shown a significant decrease in collisions and personal injury collisions for intersections that have been converted from signal-controlled to roundabouts. The statistics show a 48% reduction in overall collisions and a 78% reduction in personal injury or fatal
collisions.”  The report also started that for the intersection in question, the cost of construction for a roundabout was estimated to be $400,000 more than a traffic light controlled.

In no way am I advocating that roundabouts are perfect nor may they be perfect for every situation or location, nothing is.  At the same time they have been proven to work and I do advocate that it’s time to look beyond the antiquated mindset we seem to have in North America of throwing up stop signs and traffic lights everywhere as a means to handle development and the increased traffic that it brings.  Large urban areas such as Toronto have stop and go traffic making for extended travel times,  idling vehicles that consume fuel while adding to the pollution problem and more.   Wishing to escape to a more desirable lifestyle with less traffic and stress are some of the many reasons people are drawn to the southern Georgian Bay region.

Like many things it’s time to seriously look at other measures and adopt a mindset where building traffic lights is noi onger the primary means to control traffic.  We can and need to do better.