Local resident frustrated by lack of traffic law enforcement
BY VOICE STAFF
Though Pelham Town Council moved to address the Hurricane Road speeding problem with stop sign approval at its meeting last week, and installation of the signs shortly afterward, the ongoing efforts of one resident make it likely that other speeding concerns will be on council’s agenda in the near future.
Rick Wilsher, who lives on Clare Avenue between Quaker and Woodlawn Roads, says that he has called the Town some 40 times to raise concerns about speeding on his stretch of Clare.
“It’s just unbelievable,” he says. “Every single day, there are literally dozens of cars going over one hundred kilometres an hour. I’ve spent a lot of time around the race track, and I know what speeds are. My eight-year-old son is absolutely terrified of that road, and I am too.”
According to Wilsher, there are a significant number of cyclists and pedestrians who travel on the road despite the fact that the Steve Bauer Trail runs alongside it. He and his wife bought the house from his parents, who he says noticed the same speeding problem for more than a decade. His mother once saw a cyclist struck and thrown into the ditch paralleling the road.
Wilsher says that he has repeatedly witnessed cars passing stopped school buses, and has started filming and taking pictures of cars as they speed by.
“A lot of them rev their engines even louder, or flip me off,” he says. “I get that all the time.” Indeed, as a Voice photographer stood at the of Wilsher’s drive taking photos, a few cars actually speeded up, most notably the red pickup shown in the photo above. Wilsher shook his head in disgust.
In Wilsher’s calls to the Town’s automated customer service system, he says that he has received calls back from actual employees only a handful of times, with the rest of his messages going unanswered.
“I get pretty passionate, and so I might have been a little rude,” he says. “But I only get upset because I care—about my son, and about the other people who use this road. Because mark my words, someone is going to die.” Wilsher spoke to Sarah Leach, an assistant to Town Clerk Nancy Bozzato, who encouraged Wilsher to contact Councillor John Durley.
“I spoke to Durley, and he seemed to care. He lives just down the road, and said that there’s the same problem there.”
Durley subsequently made a Public Service Request, and the Town’s automated display of traffic speed sign, the one on wheels, was placed on Clare directed towards northbound traffic. Durley says that, “Speeding is an issue throughout the town,” and that, “We are exploring means by which traffic calming can be achieved.”
On a subsequent visit to Wilsher’s home, the Voice found the sign inoperative.
Wilsher was pleased that sign was in place, though he says that more needs to be done, and is disappointed that Town Director of Public Works Andrea Clemencio has said that presently “there are no other plans regarding traffic on that street.”
“At the very least, the Town should put up ‘Children Playing’ and flashing speed limit signs,” says Wilsher. “I’ve asked for both of those repeatedly, in addition to speed bumps or something else to slow people down.”
Wilsher has also contacted the police on numerous occasions, calling the local Niagara Regional Police office in Welland, and the Traffic Enforcement Division as well. He has seen police monitor the road only a few times, including one instance in which a man was arrested and his car impounded. The news report of the incident, which went out on the Canadian Press wire service, asserted that the driver was travelling at 102 km/h, though Wilsher says that at the time, the police told him that the car was actually going 180 km/h.
“I’m not a cop basher—I don’t want to be the guy who’s always complaining. But the fact is that something needs to be done. And I’ve been told by police that with limited resources, speeders are not their priority,” he says.
Wilsher’s patience with the police was further tested when he posted about his speeding concerns on a Facebook group devoted to discussing Pelham issues. Wilsher linked to an article about the arrest and impounding of the drag-racer’s car, and lamented that an officer had told him that speeding wasn’t the police’s main concern. Another group member, a police officer, posted a reply saying, “You complain about enforcement and post an article of someone getting arrested. Sounds like you need the whine police.”
Robert Schottlander, an Administration Sergeant with the NRP in Welland, says that the inability of the police to closely monitor every traffic situation is unfortunate.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to have officers in Welland-Pelham, always on top of these situations,” says Schottlander. “And we try—there isn’t a single call that comes in that is ignored. The staff sergeants do their best to have these things looked into. But the reality is that with the number of officers we have, we often have to call in overtime work for traffic enforcement, which is very expensive.”
Wilsher says that he will continue to call both the NRP’s Welland division, and the designated traffic enforcement division, which roams throughout Niagara. He hopes that the provincial government will move to install speed cameras around the province. In a recent change to the Highway Traffic Act, Ontario has re-introduced photo radar under a new name, “Automated Speed Enforcement,” which is available to municipalities to install in school zones and in designated community safety zones, where the posted limit is under 80 km/h.
Until such time as cameras may be installed, however, Wilsher will continue to lobby the Town to take additional measures to calm speeds on Clare Avenue.
“I just ordered a radar gun. I’ll be marking down speeds, and taking lots of photos and videos, too,” he says. Wilsher also plans on circulating a petition to his neighbours along the street.
“It’s always the squeaky wheel that gets oiled—so I’m going to have to squeak on this. I don’t want to be that guy, but I just can’t take it anymore.”