A group of concerned Grey Highlands residents have taken community safety into their own hands by developing their own strategy that aims to address dangerous driving on local roadways.
“We all know that there has been a significant increase in the volume and speed of traffic, and in particular, of commercial heavy truck traffic in and around the village [of Kimberley],” said Grey Highlands resident, Martha Rogers. “This has created a real honest concern about public safety, not to mention public health for people and the environment.”
Following mounting concerns around dangerous driving in their community, a group of local residents came together to form the Kimberley Safety Group.
Since coming together, the group has developed a strategy that outlines their priorities in responding to concerns about public safety in and around Kimberley, as well as providing recommendations for community-level improvements to address traffic volumes and speed.
Rogers recently presented a deputation to Grey Highlands council on behalf of the Kimberley Safety Group.
“We have letters of support from 12 organizations and more than 100 different individuals,” Rogers said. “We believe this can make a very important contribution to the future of Kimberley and to the entire Beaver Valley.”
Through her deputation, Rogers explained that the group is very concerned about pedestrian and cyclist safety as the highway through the village does not have paved shoulders or a sidewalk, and the community is often a destination for hikers and cyclists as it intersects with many popular trails.
Grey County’s Cycling and Trails Master Plan lists Kimberley as a highly active hotspot area that holds key land features that could be perceived as major destinations and trip generators.
Stacie Howe, a member of the safety group and the owner and operator of the Kimberley General Store, which sits along Grey Road 13 in the village, said she has witnessed a dramatic increase in both vehicle and cyclist traffic in recent years.
“We saw 6,000 cyclists at the store alone last summer, and we're trying to figure out where they can land in-town that is a safe place,” Howe said. “I'm almost panicking, because I know these groups of cyclists are going to come and what should I do? Send them over to the hall even though it's not set up for them?”
The Kimberley Hall, located down the road from the Howe’s store, is one of the places in town the group thinks could be improved to aid the safety concerns.
“We would like to see a safe space for the cyclist off-road, where they, and hikers and others could rest, and become refreshed, learn about the Valley, and frankly, to enjoy the lovely property that surrounds the Kimberley Hall,” said Rogers.
The group recommends revitalizing the grounds of the hall to attract outdoor picnics, events, and parking for cars and cyclists.
Through the group's strategy - Kimberley: Envisioning a safe and prosperous future - a number of short, medium and long-term recommendations have been outlined, including:
- Revitalizing the grounds of the Kimberley Hall
- Installing two additional accessible parking spaces at the Kimberley Hall and the Kimberley General Store
- Installing three crosswalks along Grey Road 13
- Better defining the village boundaries and erecting welcome signs
- Establishing a gradual reduction in the speed limit through the village
- Extending the community safety zone
- Improving walkability by installing gravel pathways along the side of Grey Road 13 connecting the village to the north and south gateways
Rogers explained that the three primary objectives behind the recommendations are to slow down the traffic flowing through Kimberley, to create safe and accessible ways in which pedestrians of all ages and abilities can move in and around the village and to create a safe space off-road for cyclists.
“We are suggesting a progressive reduction in speed from 60 km/hour to 40 km/hour through the village,” Rogers said. “There are in excess of 50 homes and businesses on Grey Road 13 within the hamlet and many are situated very close to the road itself. This is unlike most hamlets in our region and is a strong rationale for reducing the speed to 40 km/hour.”
Last year, the group collected 120 signatures in a petition asking for action to be taken to reduce the frequent speeding issues.
Around the same time as the petition was being circulated, Grey County committed to installing traffic calming measures in Kimberley, in the form of pylon traffic signs at the road’s centre line.
Concurrently, Grey County reduced the speed limit on the main road through in the neighbouring hamlet of Eugenia from 50 km/h to 40 km/h.
At the time, Pat Hoy, director of transportation for Grey County, stated that “by reducing Eugenia to a 40 km/h but installing a traffic calming pilot in Kimberley while it’s still posted at 50 km/h, we will have data to compare how effective each method is at reducing speeds.”
The county intends to monitor the two communities throughout the summer months and will compare how each method has helped to improve road and community safety. From there, county staff are expected to provide further recommendations to the county council for possible long-term solutions.
However, Howe said while the group appreciates that the county is taking some form of action on the speeding concerns, there are many doubts on how effective the pylons will be, as well as the message they send.
“As a group, the Kimberley Safety Group is not in favour of the pylons,” she said, noting that the pylons can often be a hindrance to emergency and farm vehicles.
“It's not in keeping with our approach, which is connection, not correction. We're not interested in hitting people with a stick as they drive into town and saying, slow down. That's not our approach. What we want to do is say to people driving is... hey, you've entered a community, and you're welcome to be part of this community.”
Howe explained that the group feels the boundaries of the hamlet need to be expanded and better defined to drivers so that they are aware they are entering a residential community and have time to reduce their speed before reaching busy pedestrian areas, like the entrance to the Kimberley Trail.
“At those gateways, we want to alert people to the fact that they are now entering a community. And then establish a graduated reduction in speed from those points. That's also where the community safety zone would begin,” Howe explained.
Along with signs on both ends of the hamlet, the group is pushing for the installation of crosswalks at Kimberley Trail, Kimberley Hall, and at the intersection of Sideroad 7A/7B.
“Now, we realize that if you say there's a crosswalk, but there's nothing that stops traffic, it could create increased risk as people cross thinking they're safe, but they're not,” Howe said.
“So we looked at the possibility of installing a similar light to the one that is one Scenic Caves Road [in the Town of the Blue Mountains]. It's solar-powered and as soon as the pedestrian pushes a button, there's a flashing beacon that stops the traffic,” she continued.
Along with the traffic light, the group has also been in discussions with a local artist about using murals and road art to highlight the crossings.
In an effort to bring their strategy to fruition, the Kimberley Safety Group has asked Grey Highlands council for its assistance in applying for a grant that would help fund some of the initiatives.
The group plans to apply for the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative, a $31 million initiative that was formed by the federal government to fund small-scale infrastructure projects to create safer, more vibrant and inclusive communities.
Through the initiative, the Kimberley Safety Group could be eligible to receive a maximum of $250,000.
At the recently held meeting, Grey Highlands council members approved municipal staff to work with the Kimberley Safety Group on the application to the Healthy Communities Grant and also noted that council members would advocate for the project at the county level.
The deadline for the Healthy Communities Grant application is June 25. Results of the application are expected by Aug. 13.