Here in Yorkton, next to downtown, there are a lot of narrow streets. I should know, I live on one of them, and experience the joy of driving down my narrow lane every day. After living on my street for a couple years now, I’m beginning to think that we’ve got to consider doing something to make these streets safer, because at the moment they are too narrow for the traffic that uses them.
The current situation is chaos, in a word. There is two-way traffic on all of the streets in question, and parking on both sides. This is fine, on a street that can handle it, because there’s enough space to fit four lanes of cars. However, there is frequently not enough space to handle that much traffic, which is a headache for a motorist that regularly travels down these problematic avenues.
Let’s take Sixth Ave, because that is the one I’m most familiar with. Most of the road is clear, it’s residential and there’s less need to park on the street. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t regularly cars parked there, and they tend to alternate from side to side. If there is regular traffic down the road, this leads to an odd slalom behavior, as you must alternate between being closer to the center and on the shoulder as you duck in and out in order to avoid the oncoming lane.
Then there are those rare times when two cars are parked across from one another, at which point one must pause for a moment to let another person through. While we are generally able to ascertain who goes when, it’s still a safety concern, especially as some people inevitably drive irresponsibly. While the residents might have figured out how to navigate this anarchic road, it’s hardly an ideal situation.
So what are the solutions? Let’s assume that widening the street is out, all the streets mentioned are in an older part of town. Houses are relatively close to the road, and the cost of such an extensive undertaking would be prohibitive.
Then, there are two solutions, and I imagine both would run into opposition. One, make the streets one way, alternating directions. For some people, this would make getting to work take slightly longer and make it more annoying, but it’s relatively easy to implement. It’s just signs, after all, and the design of the barriers on Smith St. are already designed to make left turns slightly more inconvenient in some places. Parking would still be possible on each side, and it would be easy to enforce.
The other solution is to only allow street parking on one side of the street. It would also require signs, but the problem here is enforcement. This is a lot of ground to cover, and it would likely require additional staff. As well, naturally, it would annoy people who would either have to park further away from their house, or find many more people parking in front of their house. It’s not perfect, but there would always be enough room for traffic.
I admit, these moves would find enemies, but let’s be honest, safety is a bit more of a concern than convenience. While we have managed so far in this chaotic traffic situation, I wonder how long it’s going to take before it causes an accident. Given that I live down these narrow avenues, I also wonder if I’m going to be one of the people involved in it.