City’s Speed Humps Hit a Bump with Disability Advocates

Author of the article:Taylor Campbell
Published Aug 10, 2023

Windsor disability advocates sounded alarm bells this week over a traffic calming measure they say could make it hard and even dangerous for some residents to get around.

Danica McPhee, a member of the Windsor Accessibility Advisory Committee, on Tuesday warned city council that adding speed humps to streets without sidewalks poses a risk to residents with mobility challenges, herself included.

During the meeting, council was asked to approve speed humps on three streets, all without sidewalks, at the request of residents looking to slow down traffic.

“When there’s no sidewalk and a speed hump is installed, it feels like you’re limiting access to those public streets for people with pain, who use mobility aids, who are frail,” said McPhee. She has a spinal cord injury and uses a manual wheelchair.

In addition to posing a fall risk, McPhee said speed humps have also been shown to increase emissions, delay emergency response, and increase traffic in surrounding neighbourhoods.

“I moved to Windsor because of the accessibility. It’s flat. It’s temperate. I love Windsor,” she said.

“I’d just like to keep it as accessible as possible so that I can grow old in my own neighbourhood and not have to relocate for the fear of my street posing a safety risk where there is no sidewalk for me to take refuge on.”

A staff report to council about speed humps acknowledged accessibility concerns on streets without sidewalks. Staff developed a modified speed hump design with additional flat space on the edge of the hump, 80 centimetres, but that failed to appease the accessibility advisory committee during a previous meeting.

Committee members, the report said, maintained that speed humps are a barrier “and may become a liability for someone with a white cane or power chair.” Liability “would be exacerbated” if the gap next to the speed hump had any cracks, potholes, or other hazards.

While similar to speed bumps, speed humps are slightly longer and lower in height, and are less aggressive in slowing down traffic. Speed bumps are used in parking lots and require vehicles to slow to a near stop to drive over them, while humps slow drivers to around 30 km/h.

“When the speed humps are shortened so that we can move around them, it’s been shown that cars follow that same path of travel, which both eliminates the traffic calming measure and puts people with disabilities in a more dangerous position,” McPhee told council.

Different traffic calming measures could contribute to “healthier and more vibrant communities,” she said. Those measures include bike lanes to narrow streets, speed traps, murals on roads, and trees planted near roadways.

Shawna Boakes, the city’s executive director of operations, said staff researched what other municipalities have done to accommodate accessibility with traffic calming. Some have recommended larger gaps between the curb and the edge of the hump, which the City of Windsor is looking to do, and others have not.

However, Boakes acknowledged no other municipalities have identified best practices for Windsor to follow when it comes to speed humps and accessibility.

“We do hope to monitor these locations,” Boakes said. “Any street, moving forward, without a sidewalk we may put (speed humps) on hold until we’ve completed the monitoring of these local streets.”

“This is a recommendation to move forward with these three streets as a bit of a trial.”

Council approved the installation of speed humps on three residential streets: Avondale Avenue between West Grand Boulevard and Norfolk Street; Beals Street East and West between Dougall Avenue and Huntington Avenue; and Academy Drive between Northwood Street and North Service Road West.

Their installation, along with “traffic-calmed neighbourhood” signs, will cost $73,850, plus $5,420 per year for maintenance. Most of the funding will come from the city’s traffic calming budget, while maintenance costs will come from the operating budget.

In addition to that approval, council asked staff to gather data and feedback about the “trial” speed humps on streets without sidewalks.

Ward 1 Coun. Fred Francis, council’s representative on the Windsor Accessibility Advisory Committee, called the issue a “difficult” and “unique” one.

“To the credit of the accessibility committee, they came up with this issue that I think no one even really thought of. We’re trying to work around this and provide an area of compromise considering there is no best practice.”

Francis said it was a “good way to proceed” to implement speed humps on a “trial basis” on the three roads without sidewalks that were approved. Information collected as the city monitors those roadways would inform future council decisions, he said.

Ward 10 Coun. Jim Morrison said the best option would be to add sidewalks.

“If there’s a real problem with speeding – we should get these kids off the road and get them on sidewalks,” Morrison said. He acknowledged sidewalks are a budget item, not something to be decided during this week’s meeting, but said council needs to “seriously” look at what money is allocated for sidewalks.

The city’s speed hump program began in May 2022 as a way to let residents request the traffic calming measure through 311. Enough residents have to be on board for the city to go ahead with installation – at least 50 per cent of roadway residents must respond to a survey, and at least 60 per cent of respondents must be in support of speed humps.

Speed humps are only allowed on local streets with curbs where the humps don’t pose a risk for transit, trucks, or emergency services.

Several kinds of streets are ineligible for speed humps: scenic drives, collector or arterial roads, transit, truck, and emergency services routes, roads with speed limits above 50 km/h, and roads classified as industrial.

So far, the program hasn’t been a big success. Of the roughly 130 eligible roads where residents have requested speed humps, only seven have passed the survey stage, with too few neighbours wanting speed humps for the city to install them. The results of three more surveys were still pending as of late July.

Speed humps requested by council last year on stretches of Dandurand Avenue and Partington Avenue will be installed this construction season.

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