2023 problem: Meet 2024

Op-ed

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One of the two photos you’ll see appended to this article may look very familiar to you. The shot of York Street in Winchester looking east from the Hospital is one that appeared in the Times – though on a much snowier occasion – in February of 2022, nearly two years ago. A close up of one of the red and white “do not enter” signs also appeared in a somewhat more sarcastic update on the same issue in July of last year. The issue of course, is the fact that two streets in Winchester are dedicated as “one-way” streets, but they are travelled the wrong way perhaps a dozen or more times a day!

I wanted to bring attention to the issue when I wrote the news article two years ago. I spend at least 6 hours a day at Winchester Public School, often more, and wanted to bring my own observations to the table. Fast forward nearly a year and a half to last summer and I was disheartened that the problem was still nearly just as bad! I have actually had to step into the middle of the street and help guide drivers to pass each other safely when one is going the wrong way!

Here we are now – the new year has come, and a 2022 problem that became a 2023 problem is now a 2023 problem that became a 2024 problem. Will it ever end? For safety reasons, I suggest that it needs to end… and quickly. A car travelling east on York Street between Louise and St. Lawrence (i.e. the wrong way) does not see adequate signage for the very busy crosswalk, does not actually have room to proceed if a car comes quickly around the corner onto York Street from St. Lawrence, and does not have a stop sign to command them to stop at (very busy) St. Lawrence Street. With my estimate of 6-12 vehicles going the wrong way on York Street or Louise Street daily, it’s a miracle no one has been hurt yet. 

My hope with previous articles was to spread information. The problem is, the Times is only delivered in North Dundas. It is doubtless that at least some ND residents still don’t know that the streets are one-way, because old habits don’t die easily in small towns, but surely the 5,500 households who receive the Times are not the only ones who use Winchester District Memorial Hospital, traffic in and out of which I assume is the biggest source of the problem. 

It’s likely out-of-town hospital visitors who either find themselves turning south onto Louise Street (wrong way!) to get to the Hospital, perhaps to bring a family member a snack from Circle K, or they end up proceeding straight (east) down York Street when exiting the Hospital (also… wrong way!). I have said it before and I will say it again: a red circle with a white horizontal bar means “do not enter” in the driver’s handbook. Driver’s have 100% responsibility for knowing the rules, signals, and signs of the road. Nothing can excuse a driver driving past two of these signs. These drivers should be taking a mandatory driving refresher course, if you ask me. 

However, with the problem now going on as long as it has, I’m ready to take a new angle: Council needs to act. New signs were just purchased and installed to mark the bus lane and parking spaces surrounding the school (don’t even get me started about how some of this official signage uses the word “daycare” rather than “childcare”, the former of which is considered derogatory by many in the childcare industry). How much would it have cost to add in four new signs, one to be posted below each of the existing signs, reading either “DO NOT ENTER” or “WRONG WAY”? Even better, for each of the two streets, one sign could have one phrase, and the other could have the second phrase. 

I am all for holding drivers accountable for their behaviour. A red circle with a white horizontal bar means “do not enter”, and drivers should know that. But particularly considering that these streets surround a school, and any victims of wrong way traffic are therefore more likely to be children, I would rather concede and provide written signs, rather than sticking it out with the current signage to prove a point. How long does a problem need to fester before we do something about it? I may not know much about traffic control, but I do know that two years of danger is already far too long. 

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