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Children's safety paramount: Hantsport women lobbying for more crosswalks on Holmes Hill Road


Zoe Brewster, who lives on the newly reconstructed Holmes Hill Road in Hantsport, says residents must jaywalk in order to get safely to the other side of the street — and with the road being a main thoroughfare, she's concerned someone is going to get hurt.

“(I hope) someone will see that this is an actual problem and not just brush it under the rug, per se. No one seems to think it's an issue but we all think so,” said Brewster, who has three children at home — two of which are school age.

Holmes Hill Road is about one kilometre in length and connects Bog Road in Falmouth to Main Street in Hantsport. The green light on upgrades to the roadway was granted as part of Hantsport's dissolution into the Municipality of West Hants. Work on the project began in the fall of 2016 and wrapped up in 2017. The road, which had two sidewalks pre-construction, was revamped, with the aging infrastructure replaced. Once the work was completed, however, only one sidewalk remained.

“You'd think it'd be a standard thing to have on any street so I'm kind of surprised they don't think it's necessary,” she said of the limited amount of crosswalks.

As this will be the first winter that some residents won't have access to a sidewalk, and with no nearby crosswalk to take, Brewster said she fears a child will be struck by oncoming traffic.

“It's for safety, really. There's no need for children to try to cross the street in front of moving cars without an actual place to do it,” said Brewster.

“People drive really fast down the hill.”

It's a fear that Jane Davis, Brewster's mother, shares.

“What do the children do in the wintertime to cross the street? They have to get to the other side of the street to get to the plowed sidewalk,” said Davis, who wants to see at least two crosswalks added — one at McCully Pines, the other at the entrance to the Riverbank Cemetery.

With Riverbank Cemetery being a popular walking destination for all ages, Davis said it would make sense to have a crosswalk connecting Riverbank Road to the sidewalk.

The longtime resident says the street didn't require crosswalks before the construction. But once it became clear there would be no sidewalk, no gravel path as was initially promised, on one side of the road, Davis said the need for a crosswalk became evident.

“They'll say, there wasn't a crosswalk on that street before. That's true but there were sidewalks on both sides so you didn't need a crosswalk. You could walk all the way down from the top of the hill to the bottom and vice versa,” said Davis.

“People's lawns are kind of sacred. You don't feel like you should be walking on people's lawns, even though it used to be a sidewalk right where that sod is.”

Both Davis and Brewster said they've noticed an increase in traffic on the road, plus speeding. They largely believe this is due to a new project underway in Bishopville and the fact that it's now a smoothly paved road.

 

Municipality responds

A representative of the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said in an email correspondence with the Journal that they only oversee provincially-owned roads and Holmes Hill Road is not under their care.

West Hants' chief administrative officer Cathie Osborne forwarded on a response from Rick Sherrard, the municipal engineer, as he is out of the office until January.

The correspondence notes that there are three crosswalks already in place at the intersections of Holmes Hill Road and Maple Avenue, Chestnut Avenue and Evangeline Drive.

“Walking is a vital activity which requires suitable infrastructure as a core element in the provision of a sustainable, equitable and safe transportation system. Pedestrian crossing control presents a challenge given the need to accommodate pedestrians safely in an interactive manner with other users of the transportation system,” he wrote.

Sherrard noted that they have guidelines to follow, including the ‘Pedestrian Crossing Control Guide’ and ‘Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Canada, which are both produced by the Transportation Association of Canada and aid municipalities in making crosswalk decisions.

“A preliminary assessment of Mariner's Drive and Riverbank Drive has determined that these sites are not a candidate for pedestrian crossing control at this time.”

West Hants Coun. Robbie Zwicker said municipal staff was asked to investigate whether a crosswalk could be added to Holmes Hill. He was told that regulations would not allow it.

“I would've thought it would make sense to have something at Mariner's Drive, which is kind of halfway up the hill, maybe something at the cemetery,” said Zwicker.

However, when he heard back from staff, he said “the regulatory body that would look after these sorts of things” didn't feel the street warranted additional crosswalks.

West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian said he wasn't aware of any complaints concerning the safety of Holmes Hill Road. He said he has lobbied to have a safer crossing area in his district of Falmouth but was told it wasn't possible for much the same reason as it wouldn't work on Holmes Hill.

“A crosswalk has to lead to something. If there's no sidewalk leading to another sidewalk, they say you can't do a crosswalk there. There has to be a beginning and an ending,” he said.

Zwicker said there are other cases in Hantsport where there are no crosswalks, and one where there is a crosswalk similar to what those concerned about Holmes Hill Road want to see.

“There are a lot of streets in town — Avon Street, Chittick Avenue — that have one sidewalk with some residences on the other side. The trick is to get yourself safely across and use the sidewalk,” said Zwicker, noting that Chittick Avenue also has a crosswalk that leads to the local grocery store parking lot.

Zwicker said he would be supportive of installing the crosswalks if the municipality deemed it OK to do so.

“The residents had to swallow a big pill. They lost a sidewalk... (a decision) which I supported. There's economies of scale,” said Zwicker. “But in fairness to them, if they feel they need some crosswalks and it's safe for the area, why not do it?”

Davis hopes that by making their voices heard, the municipality will take their concerns seriously.

“If there's a will there's a way. Right now, there's no will (to install crosswalks),” said Davis.

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