Father Tobin Road Traffic Calming Endangers Cyclists

Father Tobin Road in northeast Brampton runs 3.5 km west-east from Dixie Road to Mountainash Road.  It has houses, parks, two elementary schools, a middle school and two high schools.  Unfortunately, as a 3.5km long, straight, overly wide road, it encourages drivers to use it to avoid busier arterial roads and to exceed the speed limit. One quarter of vehicles was deemed to be “cut-through” traffic in a vehicle study of this road.

Last summer Brampton decided to do traffic calming on the 1.4km section between Bramalea and Dixie where there are three schools.  The speed limit over the 3.5km varies from 40-50kph.  East of Fernforest, near the middle school, the speed limit is 40kph, with average measured speeds at 45.5kph, which might not seem too bad at first glance, however, the 85th percentile – the speed at which 85% of vehicles travel at or below – is 55.8kph, which means that 15% of vehicles are travelling at higher than 55.8kph in a 40kph school zone.


Newton’s laws dictate that a doubling in vehicle speed results in a stopping distance four times as long and four times as much kinetic energy absorbed during an impact. Driver response times further increase stopping distances. As a result, a small increase in roadway traffic speeds results in a disproportionately large increase in pedestrian fatalities.


Pedestrians or cyclists hit at speeds above 40kph are dramatically more likely to sustain severe injuries or die. Clearly, given this street has only homes and schools on it, the traffic situation was dangerous.

Brampton is embarking on traffic calming on Fernforest Drive this year, so I cycled along Father Tobin Road and Fernforest Drive this afternoon to see what was done last year so I can provide feedback at the Public Information Centre (PIC) for the Fernforest Drive traffic calming next week.
Options presented at the PIC for traffic calming on Father Tobin Road included a parking lane on one side or bicycle lanes on both sides.  Neither option was actually constructed.  The image below shows the evaluation criteria which includes lowering the 85th percentile to 45kph, which means that 15% of vehicles would still be travelling above 45kph.
I began my ride at the east end where Father Tobin Road begins at Mountainash Road.  This is Shaw Public Elementary School and the road is far too wide along the entire length of Father Tobin Road, so I am curious why the traffic calming applied only to the western 1.4km.
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This is an intimidating expanse of asphalt to cross at Torbram Road.
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It is quite unusual to see a bridge built so wide in Brampton.  There is plenty of room for bike lanes here.
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Another huge intersection at Sunny Meadow Boulevard.
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Here is where the traffic calming begins, on the west side of Bramalea, in front of a high school.  Urban shoulders, on alternating sides, and some medians, using a brick surface in places, is what was actually implemented.  Parking is allowed on urban shoulders.  Cyclists may ride on the shoulder, but need to come out into the motor vehicle traffic to get around parked cars.  And in this implementation, with the urban shoulder alternating from side to side, the cyclist needs to regularly merge with traffic when the shoulder disappears.
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Here the lane disappears
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Here’s another section on the north side where the shoulder has appeared again.
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This is a terrible implementation for cyclists.  The likelihood of a crash between a car and a cyclist has likely increased due to the increased numbers of merges.  Most cyclists in Brampton are inexperienced at riding confidently on the road and will likely ride on the shoulder until it just runs out rather than merging into the travel lane before the shoulder narrows.  This increased risk might be somewhat offset by the fact that cars should be travelling at a lower speed.
Next I headed to the north end of Fernforest Drive which runs from Countryside Drive in the north to Bovaird Drive at the south end.  However, the road continues south of Bovaird with a name change to MacKay Street and will continue north of Countryside with a name change to Russell Creek Drive.  Ferforest has no road markings except at intersections where sometimes there are right and left turn lanes.  MacKay Street has four lanes painted from Bovaird to Williams Parkway, where it ends at a middle school.
The traffic calming for Fernforest is for Bovaird to Sandalwood Parkway only.  There are only homes and schools on Fernforest, right up to Countryside, and on MacKay, so I would like to know why the traffic calming is limited to such a small section, just as it was on Father Tobin.
This is the north end of Fernforest.  There is a multiuse path on the boulevard on Countryside on the south side to which bike lanes on Fernforest could connect.
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This is a section that is not going to be traffic calmed.  It is crazy wide.

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As I passed this school the traffic was heavy with people picking up children in cars.  No children, up to and including a Grade 6 student, would be expected to walk more than 2km.  It was a windless, sunny, dry, not too cold, winter day.  No reason not to walk.  This behavior drives me crazy.IMG_20160108_145546 editsmall

Finally, here is MacKay, south of Bovaird.  A residential street, far too wide for local traffic, but not part of the upcoming traffic calming.
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To summarize:
1.  I would like to know why these traffic calming projects are being carried out on only a portion of these streets
2.  The alternating-side urban shoulder potentially makes the traffic calmed street more dangerous for cyclists than the original design.
3.  I hope a better implementation will be constructed on Fernforest, for the entire length, and include MacKay Street.

About Lisa Stokes

I am a stay-at-home mother of four whose hobbies include photography, quilting and cycling. I have recently started to advocate for better cycling infrastructure in my community. I am the photographer at the Brampton Quilters' Guild.
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