What do those Quiet Streets signs even mean?

Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation creates safer spaces for active transportation in the City

KCAT adjusted the route on Monday so it now connects Mack St., Frontenac St., Earl St., and Clergy St.

As the pandemic continues to influence how and when people choose to travel, a community group has stepped up to create safer routes across town. 

The Quiet Streets initiative prioritizes non-motorized road users—walkers, cyclists, roller skaters—through the placement of traffic barriers and signage to reduce and slow down vehicles in the area.

The pilot was implemented by the Kingston Coalition for Active Transportation (KCAT) in August and will run until mid-November. 

Though the route had initially included Albert St. to avoid road construction in the area, KCAT adjusted the route on Monday so it now connects Mack St., Frontenac St., Earl St., and Clergy St.

“We were looking for routes that weren’t active bus routes, or busy roads like Johnson or Brock, or roads identified as emergency vehicle routes—this is not a traffic calming project,” Bruce Bursey, KCAT project manager, told The Journal. “[We’re taking] roads that are already relatively quiet [and] we’re upping it a notch of quietness.”

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“These [roads] would be easier to modify because there’s already a fair amount of active transportation happening on these streets, so we’d try to reduce the number of cars to local traffic.”

The streets selected for the pilot are also access routes from residential neighbourhoods to key destinations and essential services in central Kingston. 

“We wanted to connect neighbourhoods primarily to each other, but also to shopping, to parks, to the waterfront, to employment, and to schools so that people who are walking or cycling to those places know there will be an opportunity for there to be less traffic,” Bursey said.

The pilot limits these routes to local traffic through the placement of traffic barricades at intersections. However, streets, driveways, and on-street parking are still accessible to drivers and essential services.

“This is a pilot project,” Burnsey said. “It’s a COVID-19 response.”

He said KCAT is trying to provide the opportunity for safe space during the pandemic by accommodating the two-metre physical distancing guidelines. 

“There are people who walk along the sidewalk and there’s not two-metres for them to walk together and talk, so what happens is that one person is on the sidewalk and one person is in the street to maintain the social distance,” Burney said.

“If we have a second wave and it goes back to what it was in the spring, it will become even more important than it was [when it was first implemented] over the summer.”

He said Quiet Street routes were also designed to connect existing pathways in the City.

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“There was a serious need for more North-South movement—for example, crossing Princess Street. That’s of primary interest to Queen’s students who live on the other side of Princess Street,” Bursey said. “We were looking for ways to increase safe access across.”

Before the pilot began, KCAT made baseline observations about the road usage along the route in collaboration with Queen’s Department of Geography and Planning. This week, they’ll begin evaluating the success of the pilot by recording how the usage has changed.

“We look at the number of vehicles and the type of vehicles—single occupancy, multiple occupancy,” Bursey said. “We look at all the people moving in the corridor and how they’re moving: walking, bicycling, parents pushing strollers, children on scooters, elderly people using mobility aids.”

They’ll be making these observations at different points throughout the day to gauge the impact.

This approach will provide KCAT with a quantitative image of the pilot’s success, but they’re also doing interviews with residents in the area and collecting information both through a user survey and a resident survey to get input from the community. 

The information will later be used to determine whether additional phases or expansions are financially feasible. 

While other cities in Canada have started similar projects with public funds, KCAT has privately funded the Quiet Streets through donations from residents and operates with the assistance of volunteers.  

“This is a completely volunteer-driven initiative. It’s not being paid for by the City,” Bursey said, noting that the City is supporting the pilot by providing traffic barriers and signage.

“I’m hoping the Queen’s community will see the value in this, and I would encourage students and faculty to participate in the surveys that are online to help us make it better—we’re very open and looking forward to feedback.”

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