by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Two streets in Winchester, which were changed to allow only one-way direction of travel last summer, are still causing much confusion for drivers. In the summer of 2021, Louise St S, between Clarence St and York St, was changed to a one-way, accommodating northbound traffic only; and York St, between St. Lawrence St and Louise St S, was changed to a one-way for cars travelling west toward the hospital.
These changes were made as part of the ongoing construction project to add a new child care centre addition to Winchester Public School. The streets were reduced to one lane to create parent parking for pick up and drop off at the child care centre, which is not expected to be completed until later this year, at the earliest.
Now, approximately eight months after the changes to the two streets, the problem of drivers travelling the wrong way does not seem to be getting any better. Local residents, parents, and school staff are noticing, on average, several cars per day violating the one-way rule on the streets, particular by drivers who are leaving the hospital parking lot. When leaving the main parking lot entrance of the hospital, travelling straight through the intersection results in travelling the wrong way on York St.
What causes such persistent driver rule-breaking? Inattention and habituation are likely to be contributing factors. Locals become accustomed to travelling the same routes through town, and adapting to infrastructure changes can be a challenge when such changes go against deeply ingrained habits. Even for out-of-town drivers visiting the hospital, the habit of going straight onto York St from the parking lot exit is one that can be hard to break, despite the signage in place.
Perhaps another factor is the signage itself. One-way travel signs have yet to be put up on the streets, although drivers exiting the hospital parking lot are greeted with two large do-not-enter signs where York St meets Louise St S. Pavement markings also clearly indicate the permitted direction of travel, and the curbs at the end of each street are constructed to only leave enough roadway for one vehicle at a time. Some residents have criticized the fact that there is still a stop sign in place at St. Lawrence St for cars travelling eastbound on York St, even though cars are not permitted to travel eastbound on that stretch of York St.
However, the purpose of the stop sign is likely an ironic one – it is to prevent collisions at York St. and St. Lawrence St due to the countless drivers who violate the one-way ordinance on York St. Also potentially confusing, is that a newly-constructed crosswalk on York St has signage in place facing drivers travelling eastbound, despite the fact that eastbound travel is not permitted.
Whatever the various causes of Winchester’s new “one-way travel problem,” many North Dundas locals are undoubtedly wishing for an end soon, before someone gets hurt.